Chaos, wrong decisions and inaction: Two months after the massacre in an elementary school in the US state of Texas that left 21 dead, an investigative report uncovered “systemic failure” in the police operation. Almost 400 officers from various law enforcement agencies rushed to the primary school in the city of Uvalde – but did not intervene in time, according to the report published on Sunday (local time).
“If there’s only one thing I can tell you, it’s that there have been multiple systemic failures,” Republican Rep. Dustin Burrows said at a news conference.
The report on the police operation on May 24 was written by a committee of inquiry in the Texas House of Representatives and distributed to family members on Sunday. An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the small town.
The attacker had shot at his victims in two connected classrooms with an assault rifle.
The police were heavily criticized for their hesitant intervention. After the fact, she repeatedly changed her statements about the course of events. It finally turned out that the police only overpowered and killed the perpetrator around 75 minutes after their arrival. The report does not break down when each of the hundreds of emergency services listed arrived on site.
“Several officers in the hallway or in the building that day knew, or should have known, that someone was dying in the classroom,” Burrows said. “They should have acted more urgently, trying the door handles, trying to get in through the windows, trying to distract him, trying to do something to respond to the situation.”
Lawyer Eva Guzman, who also worked on the report, added: “I think what the report says is that if you’re not willing to endanger the lives of the people you serve, these children, you should look for another job to put one above one’s own.”
The 77-page report went on to say that the rescue of innocent victims was not put before one’s own safety. The mistakes made are not due to a lack of emergency personnel, but to a lack of leadership skills and effective communication.
Several police officers described the scenes at the crime scene as chaotic and did not know who was in charge. Nobody took the initiative and took command, it said. The report concludes that lives could have been saved if emergency services had intervened sooner.
Mistakes also happened at Robb Elementary School, it said. Actually, the doors to the school should have been locked – but this was not the case. There were also problems with the locks on the classrooms within the school. One of the adjoining classrooms in which the shooter caused the bloodbath was probably not locked.
The loudspeaker system in the school was also not used to communicate the lockdown. Not all teachers would have found out about it in time and acted accordingly.
At the same time, new videos of the police operation became public. It shows that some officials at the school were allegedly unaware, at least initially, that there were children in the classroom. Police tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the shooter and fumbled with a door with a key.
Numerous armed forces stood idle in the hallway. Shots can be heard again and again on the recordings. Many of the responders who arrived were better trained and equipped than the school district police, the report said. They could have helped deal with the unfolding chaos.
The mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, also had to be asked questions on Sunday – and sometimes reacted very upset to the criticism. He made it clear that he would be happy to resign if that was the will of the people. “They can vote whoever they want,” he said. Again and again after the massacre there was criticism of the authorities and those responsible.