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Texas state police launch internal assessment of Uvalde’s response

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UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Two months after the massacre at the school in Uvalde, Texas state police on Monday announced an internal investigation into the actions of dozens of troopers who were at Robb Elementary during 73 minutes of mind-boggling inaction by law enforcement when a gunman 19 butchered. children and two teachers.

The announcement appeared to amplify the fallout from a damning 80-page report released over the weekend by the Texas House, which exposed errors at all levels of law enforcement and identified 91 state robbers on the scene — more than all Uvalde officers combined. . It also amounted to a public shift by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has so far largely criticized local authorities for not dealing with the shooter sooner.

The report, made public on Sunday, made it clear for the first time how massive state and US Border Patrol were on the scene during one of the worst school shootings in US history.

“You have 91 troopers on the ground. You have all the equipment you could want, and you listen to the local school cop?’ said Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde and who has accused the DPS of minimizing its role in the response.

Findings that border police and state troopers made up more than half of the 376 law enforcement officers who rushed to the school in South Texas on May 24 spread responsibility for a slow and messed up response. much broader than previous reports that emphasized mistakes by Uvalde officers.

The report made it clear that authorities’ “outrageously bad decision-making” went beyond local law enforcement in Uvalde, who ended up being outnumbered more than 5-to-1 by state and federal officials on the ground. Other local police officers from the Uvalde area also responded to the shooting.

The report puts a new spotlight on the role of state and federal agencies whose leaders, unlike local authorities, were not required to attend meetings where they were confronted by the irate parents of the dead children.

Of the nearly 400 officers who gathered at the school, only two are currently on leave pending investigation into their actions: Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde Consolidated School District Police Chief, and Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, an Uvalde Police Officer. the city’s acting chief of police during the massacre.

State police have previously said no troopers have been suspended at the scene. On Monday, Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott said the findings in the report are “beyond troubling,” but he did not name any agency.

Texas DPS did not set a timeline for when the assessment would be completed. It said the actions of every trooper, state police officer and Texas Ranger on the scene would be investigated “to determine if there have been any violations of policy, law or doctrine.”

Colonel Steve McCraw, the director of Texas DPS, has previously placed much of the blame for the response on Arredondo, identifying him as the incident commander and criticizing him for using the gunman in the classroom as a barricaded subject. treated and not as an active shooter.

The new report — the most complete account of the tragedy to date — also says Arredondo wasted critical time during the shooting by searching for a key to the classroom and not treating the shooter with more urgency. But it also stressed that all law enforcement officers on the ground have botched the response.

“There is no one to whom we can ascribe malice or evil motives. Instead, we found system flaws and extremely poor decision-making,” the report said.

Abbott said “critical changes are needed,” but a statement does not address whether officials or agencies should be held accountable.

In Uvalde, city council and school board meetings in the eight weeks since the shooting have become recurring scenes of residents yelling at elected leaders for police responsibility, which continued after the report was made public.

“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,” said Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the school cafeteria on the day of the shooting and survived. “They are cowards.”

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” the families of the murdered children and teachers and their supporters chanted the school board members at a special meeting Monday night.

Brett Cross, an uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was one of the dead, slammed board members for not holding themselves responsible for the massacre. He mainly challenged members because they did not know that the school exit doors were locked from the outside and that they had not fired Arredondo.

“If he’s not fired by noon tomorrow, I want you to resign and all these board members because you don’t care about us or our children,” Cross told Chief Inspector Hal Harrell.

Harrell said the report released this weekend will help the board decide on Arredondo’s future. However, he also noted that Arredondo is under contract and cannot be fired at will.

Uvalde High School alumna Angela Villescaz, the founder of the group Fierce Madres, told board members that her organization has been investigating officials at schools that have suffered similar mass shootings. She offered the board her findings as advice so that district officials don’t try to “reinvent the wheel.”

However, she took note of the DPS troops standing in the room and said, “…I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t think our children were worthy of being rescued.”

Historically, the DPS has had a difficult relationship with the Mexican-American community in Texas dating back to the 1800s. In the early 20th century, the Texas Rangers, from which the DPS originated and of which they are still a part, took part in numerous bloody attacks on Mexican nationals.

According to the report, the gunman fired about 142 shots into the school — and it’s “almost certain” that at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the commission, which showed numerous failures.

Among them, no one took command despite dozens of officers on the scene, and not a single officer immediately attempted to breach the classroom despite a dispatcher relaying a 911 call that there were victims in the room.

The report also criticized a border patrol tactical team, saying it waited for a bulletproof shield and a working master key to a door to the classroom, which was most likely never locked, before going inside.. In total, the report brought nearly 150 Border Patrol agents to the scene.

Cecilia Barreda, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Monday that a review of the agency’s response is ongoing and has not reached any final conclusions.

Hours after the report was released, Uvalde officials separately made public for the first time hours of body camera images of the city police officers responding to the attack.

A video of Uvalde Staff Sgt. Eduardo Canales, the head of the city’s SWAT team, showed the officer approaching the classroom when gunshots rang out at 11:37 a.m.

A minute later, Canales said, “Dude, we have to go in. We have to go in, he just keeps firing. We need to get in there.” Another officer could be heard saying, “DPS is sending their people.”

It was 72 minutes later, at 12:50 PM, when officers finally broke into the classroom and killed the gunman.

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Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Terry Wallace in Dallas also contributed to this report.

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More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings

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This story has been corrected to show that Brett Cross’ relationship with the murdered child is an uncle, not a father.

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