The U.S. Department of Justice asserts that the handling of the Uvalde school shooting by law enforcement was deemed unsuccessful.

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The Department of Justice has characterized the police response to the tragic Uvalde school shooting in 2022 as a failure. 

A report on the incident, where 19 students and two teachers lost their lives, outlined that law enforcement failed to recognize the presence of an active shooter. 

Despite the arrival of hundreds of officers at Robb Elementary School, it took over an hour to confront and neutralize the gunman. The comprehensive 400-page report, released on Thursday, highlighted cascading failures in leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training.

During the shooting unfolding, there was considerable confusion, miscommunication, a lack of urgency, and a deficiency in incident command. The report emphasized the crucial aspect of immediate neutralization of the active shooter, stating that everything else, including officer safety, should be subordinate to that objective.

However, Uvalde police treated the situation as a barricade instead of swiftly addressing the active shooter scenario, constituting a significant failure, according to the report.

Miscommunications and issues like locked doors further delayed the response. Inaccurate information over the radio misled officers into believing the shooter had already been dealt with, impeding their efforts. 

The report underscored that responding officers should have promptly recognized the incident as an active shooter situation.

The blame for the confused and slow response was placed mainly on Pete Arredondo, Uvalde’s former school police chief, who was deemed the de facto on-scene commander during the incident. 

The report criticized Arredondo for lacking appropriate leadership, command, and control, suggesting that his failures may have been influenced by policy and training deficiencies. One notable misstep was Arredondo leaving his radio behind, forcing communication with his team via verbal means or cell phone.

Residents in Uvalde, a small Texas town, had been anticipating the Justice Department’s report since its announcement days after the shooting. Attorney General Merrick Garland visited families in Uvalde, holding private meetings and briefing them before the report’s release. 

The community is grappling with the aftermath of one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, and the report’s findings are expected to shed light on the failures in the response to the tragic event.

The examination was initiated at the request of former Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who sought clarity after conflicting accounts from state officials regarding the approximately 77 minutes leading up to the moment when law enforcement halted an 18-year-old gunman wielding an AR-15 style rifle within two fourth-grade classrooms at Robb Elementary.

Despite the presence of nearly 400 police officers on the scene, victims and their families asserted that the police response was sluggish. 

A scathing 2022 report from Texas lawmakers echoed these concerns, accusing the police of neglecting to “prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety” and attributing the tragedy to “egregiously poor decision-making” by law enforcement. 

The report squarely placed much of the blame on Mr. Arredondo, who was promptly terminated following its release.

The Texas report revealed that the gunman discharged approximately 142 rounds inside the building before being stopped. Body camera footage depicted police lingering in hallways outside classrooms where the assailant had opened fire. 

Families of the victims condemned the police as cowards and called for their resignation. In the aftermath, at least four other officers lost their jobs, and numerous community members initiated pending lawsuits against the city police and local officials.

The Uvalde County District Attorney, Christina Mitchell, disclosed in December that a criminal investigation into the police response will extend into 2024, with the expectation of presenting findings to a grand jury. 

In a press release on Thursday, Mitchell affirmed, “My office will persist in our independent review for any potential criminal charges.”

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