“Critical failures” delayed the police response to the 2022 shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, according to a damning US Department of Justice review.
The report found shortcomings in “leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training” led to a confused response to gunman Salvador Ramos at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on 24 May.
Officers should have immediately broken into the classroom to confront the 18-year-old gunman – but instead they treated him like a barricaded subject and left him inside with 33 pupils for more than an hour.
“The resulting delay provided an opportunity for the active shooter to have additional time to reassess and reengage his deadly actions inside the classroom,” the report added.
“It also contributed to a delay in medical interventions with the potential to impact survivability.”
There were at least 10 “stimulus events” over the course of an hour that could have driven police to take steps under active shooter protocols to “immediately stop the killing”.
“During that period, no one assumed a leadership role to direct the response towards the active shooter, provide situational status to responding officers, establish some form of incident command, or clearly assume and communicate the role of incident commander,” the report continued.
In the 20 months since the department announced its review, footage emerged of police waiting outside the fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms where the gunman opened fire.
Authorities also gave wrong information to parents in the aftermath of the shooting about whether their children had survived or not, according to the review.
‘They deserved better’
The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, said victims and survivors “deserved better”.
“As a consequence of failed leadership, training, and policies, 33 students and three of their teachers – many of whom had been shot – were trapped in a room with an active shooter for over an hour as law enforcement officials remained outside.”
The police response came under intense criticism at the time, with reports officers waited in a corridor for more than an hour while the gunman was in a classroom and pupils made panicked 911 calls.
A US Border Patrol-led tactical team ultimately burst into the classroom and killed the gunman.
Describing an “atmosphere of chaos” at the scene in a July 2022 report, Texas lawmakers concluded officers “failed to prioritise saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety”.
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