A massive but uncoordinated and chaotic law enforcement response. A “regrettable” culture of noncompliance on school security regarding the basics of locked doors. Online signals of coming violence from the shooter.
The long-awaited Texas House report into the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers spread the responsibility of the bungled response from law enforcement wider than previous accounts. It also questioned security protocols at the school and took a deeper dive into the shooter’s background.
Here are major findings of the House investigation:
MASSIVE BUT INEPT RESPONSE
The report noted a massive but inept response from heavily armed local, state and federal law enforcement. That began moments after the shooter crashed his truck on school grounds and entered the building, then continued through the excruciating inaction that dragged out more than an hour, even as parents begged officers to do something and dispatchers took 911 calls from inside the classrooms.
“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the report said.
Although much of the criticism has been leveled at the Uvalde school district police, the report cast blame across all responding agencies, spreading responsibility much further than previously suggested.
Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to the school, most of them state and federal officers, only to spend a chaotic hour where no one seemed to take command. Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde schools police chief who has received more scrutiny than any other officer on the scene that day, failed to establish himself as the incident commander and didn’t transfer that responsibility to anyone else, the report said.
And yet, no other officers stepped in to take over, despite an “obvious atmosphere of chaos,” the report found.
While the group of initial responders on the scene “acted appropriately by attempting to breach the classrooms and stop the attacker,” they were driven back by gunfire. They lost critical momentum by treating the scene as a “barricaded shooter” instead of “active shooter.”
The report noted the initial response may have lacked urgency because of the frequency of school lockdowns in recent months as law enforcement chased suspected human traffickers smuggling migrants into the country. In some instances, traffickers will crash vehicles and passengers flee in all directions.
The school district had about 50 such alarms between February and May 2022. That frequency of less-serious alerts in Uvalde “diluted the significance of alerts and dampened everyone’s readiness to act,” the report concluded.
“The initial reaction of many administrators, teachers, and law enforcement responders was that it likely was a less-dangerous” situation, the report said.
Even Arredondo and another responding officer said they considered that possibility when they didn’t immediately see victims after they entered the school.
Whether school doors were properly locked and could have delayed the shooter’s unimpeded entry has been a key question since the day of the shooting.
Robb Elementary had a recurring problem with maintaining locks and doors, and the school had a “culture of noncompliance” regarding locked doors, “which turned out to be fatal,” the report said.
The door the shooter used to get into the building wasn’t locked like it should have been, and the door to one of the classrooms he entered probably was not locked, the report said. The lock for that classroom was known by the teacher, the principal, another school employee and many fourth grade students to not be working properly. No work order was ever placed to fix it.
SHOOTER’S HINTS OF VIOLENCE
The shooter had given some hints of coming violence in the months and days before the shooting.
A year before the shooting, he was showing online interest in gore and violent sex and at one point carried around a dead cat. While playing online games, he would become enraged when he lost and would threaten others, especially women. He also shared a developing fascination with school shootings, and eventually earned the nickname “school shooter” on one online platform.
The report said a “vague idea” for a school shooting appears to have taken root in late 2021 and accelerated after the shooter had a falling out with his mother in early 2022.
Several family members knew he was estranged from his mother and that he had asked for help buying guns, so-called “straw purchases” that would have been illegal. They refused but later learned that the week between his 18th birthday and the May 24 attack, he had legally purchased firearms and that his grandparents insisted they be removed from their home.
In one May 14 online conversation, he simply wrote, “10 more days.”
“Prior to the shooting, the attacker had no criminal history and had never been arrested. He is not known to have espoused any ideology or political views of any kind. Private individuals alone knew the many warning signals” the report said.
While much of the investigation initially focused on local and state law enforcement agencies, the report noted the U.S. Border Patrol had 149 officers who responded to the scene — by far the most of any agency.
And while the Border Patrol’s tactical unit led the final breach of the classroom to take down the gunman, the report noted that Border Patrol officers were among those who waited to take action.
The commander of the Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and working master key for a door to the classrooms that may have not even been needed, before entering and killing the attacker, the report said.
The committee was told none of the Border Patrol agents involved in opening the door to the classroom were wearing activated body cameras. The investigating committee spoke to the tactical team’s Acting Commander Paul Guerrero, but the Border Patrol was not among the agencies to give any public testimony in Texas House and Senate hearings last month.