Police response to Uvalde school shooting was 'lackadaisical', report finds

Law enforcers 'failed to prioritise saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety', report says

A police officer clears the memorial before the visit of US President Joe Biden at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. AFP
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Texas law enforcement's slow response to the school shooting in Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, was on Sunday criticised by state legislators who said more decisive action could have saved lives.

A total of 376 officers — border guards, state and city police, local sheriff departments and elite forces — responded to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School, members of the US state's House of Representatives said in a preliminary report.

But the politicians said the situation was "chaotic" due to the officers' "lackadaisical approach" to subduing the gunman.

Seventy-three minutes elapsed between the first officers' arrival and the shooter's death, an "unacceptably long period of time".

"The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life," the report said.

While the report acknowledged it was likely that most of the victims died immediately after the first shots were fired, some died while being transferred to the hospital.

"It is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue," the report said.

According to the text, which does not incriminate certain police teams over others, law enforcement officers "failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritise saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety".

Steve McCraw, Texas's public safety chief, has previously described the police response to the attack as an "abject failure", with most of his criticism on Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo.

Mr Arredondo, who has been suspended pending the investigation result, "did not assume his preassigned responsibility of incident command" and made analytical errors because he did not have all the necessary information, the Texas politicians said.

But no other officers offered to help or replace him, the report said.

"There was an overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement at the scene," it said. "The scene was chaotic, without any person obviously in charge or directing the law enforcement response."

The committee presented its findings to the victims' relatives, who have for weeks denounced a lack of transparency from authorities and accused them of seeking to cover up police failures in the case.

Public criticism of Texas authorities surged last week after the release of surveillance camera video obtained by local media.

The footage shows the shooter arriving at Robb Elementary school with a semi-automatic rifle and the officers' long wait in the hallway before finally breaching the classroom where the gunman was.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 4:40 AM