The Department of Justice on Thursday released a scathing 575-page report that laid out the host of failures during the response to the May 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead.
CNN first obtained the report from a victim’s parent. The network reported that much of the information was previously known, but the report is now the “fullest official accounting of what happened” and puts local law enforcement authorities on blast.
“The response to the May 24, 2022, mass casualty incident at Robb Elementary School was a failure,” the DOJ report says.
The report says police’s initial response was appropriate as they rushed to the school where shots were ringing out. But once they got near the classrooms where fourth graders and educators were being massacred, the report said officers inexplicably stopped in their tracks, doing nothing to stop the bloodshed for more than an hour.
The feds said officers began treating the active mass shooting as if it were a barricaded suspect situation, which the DOJ says it clearly wasn’t.
“Officers on scene should have recognized the incident as an active shooter scenario and moved and pushed forward immediately and continuously toward the threat until the room was entered, and the threat was eliminated,” the report said. “That did not occur.”
The report said police’s decision not to treat the incident as an “active-shooter” scenario, which would have demanded instant and aggressive action regardless of the danger to officers, was their “most significant failure.”
Had police continued to push into the classrooms, the report said, the 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos—who was armed with a semiautomatic rifle—likely would have been shot dead sooner, resulting in fewer lives lost. Instead, it took 77 minutes before federal border agents eventually burst into a classroom and killed Ramos.
The feds said their report was compiled after conducting 260 interviews and going through 15,000 documents and videos. It largely mirrors a report released by state investigators last year.
Despite the breadth of failures laid out, the feds have made no mention of potential criminal charges for local law enforcement leaders, which some victims’ families have demanded.
Instead, the report offered up a lengthy to-do list for systemic improvements and other recommendations for local law enforcement, one of which is to urge responding officers in similar situations to confront a gunman even if they aren’t as well armed.
The report did little to clear up confusion about who was in charge at the scene. Some investigators suggested former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo was leading the response, but Arredondo said publicly he didn’t consider himself the incident commander.
The DOJ said otherwise, however, acknowledging Thursday that he was the “de facto” on-scene commander. It called Arredondo out by name for prioritizing evacuation over going after the shooter.
“He acknowledged the likelihood that there were victims and deceased in the room with the shooter and intentionally prioritized the evacuations over immediate breach and entry into the room,” the report said of Arredondo. “This is counter to active shooter response principles, which state the priority is to address and eliminate the threat.”
The report said leaders from multiple agencies, namely the local sheriff Ruben Nolasco and Arredondo, failed to coordinate with each other despite being “10-15 feet” from each other at the scene, which added to the unorganized response.
Arredondo was fired three months after the shooting, and scores of other officers—including 90 from the Texas Department of Safety who largely stood idle outside the classroom—have been heavily criticized for their inaction. Mariano Pargas, the acting Uvalde police chief at the time of the massacre, resigned from his position in November 2022.
“The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
The report skewered police for slowing the medical response to injured students and for compromising the crime scene by allowing unauthorized officers into the impacted classrooms before they’d been properly surveyed.
The feds say EMS staff were “not the first to assess the situation in the classrooms and ensure the most appropriate use of critical resources,” which may have caused the death of students who otherwise would have been saved if their treatment had begun sooner.
The report said officers were improperly moving injured students, which likely “injured kids in ways that were probably more harmful.” It added that some students were placed on buses to a civic center with bullet wounds before they ever received medical attention and that some ambulance drivers erroneously drove past medical helicopters that were standing ready to transport critical patients.
The feds also criticized the school district and local police’s communication failures. Despite Uvalde being nearly half Hispanic, the report said very few updates were shared in Spanish during a critical period and that other updates shared online were outright incorrect and never fixed.
The report also called out local officials’ communication about the massacre in the months that followed, saying a “void of information” about what exactly happened inside the classrooms contributed to the trauma of victims’ families, with many parents wondering if their child might have been saved with a quicker police response—or if their loved ones’ final moments were spent next to friends or not.
“Many victims and family members have reported that no one has taken accountability for what happened, no one has apologized, nor even acknowledged that the families deserve this information,” the report said.
“Families report they cannot heal without the information they need about what happened to their family members on May 24, 2022, and they are unable to even begin to recover until those in charge are held accountable.”
The Daily Beast