DOJ Calls Police Response to Uvalde Shooting a ‘Failure’

Photo: MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images

A new report by the Department of Justice concludes that lives could have been saved had police responded more quickly to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two teachers dead. The scathing 575-page report, which was delivered by Attorney General Merrick Garland in Uvalde on Thursday, blames police for “cascading failures” in their response to the massacre.

On the morning of May 24, Salvador Ramos, 18, walked into Robb Elementary with an AR-15 and opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom, killing 21 people. Seventy-seven minutes later, Ramos was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent — not local or state police, sparking outrage about why police didn’t act faster. Following the shooting, state police blamed local police for the slow response; but soon after, it was revealed that state police who were also at the scene failed to confront the gunman.

“Had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in an active-shooter situation and gone right after the shooter to stop him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived,” Garland told reporters and families. The report outlines failures in leadership and communication, saying the Uvalde Police Department, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety “demonstrated no urgency for establishing a command and control structure, which led to challenges related to information sharing, lack of situational statuses, and limited-to-no direction for personnel in the hallway or on the perimeter.”

Thursday’s DOJ report found that local police who got to the school within minutes of the shooting intended to enter the school but were instructed by their chief, Pete Arredondo, not to. His decisions, including attempts to negotiate with the shooter, the report says, slowed down the response. “The most significant failure was that responding officers should have immediately recognized the incident as an active-shooter situation” and done everything they could to enter the classrooms.

Most of the officials who were working on the day of the shooting have retired or been fired, but no criminal charges have been pressed against them. Thursday’s report led families of the victims to once again call for accountability. “I’m very surprised that no one has ended up in prison,” Velma Lisa Duran, whose sister Irma Garcia was one of the two teachers killed in the shooting, told the Associated Press. “It’s sort of a slap in the face that all we get is a review … we deserve justice.”

Following the report, President Biden issued a statement acknowledging that “There were multiple points of failure that hold lessons for the future” and calling for tighter gun-control laws. “We need universal background checks, we need a national red-flag law, and we must ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” he said. “The families of Uvalde — and all American communities — deserve nothing less.”

DOJ Calls Police Response to Uvalde Shooting a ‘Failure’