UVALDE, Texas - The Justice Department's report on a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas finds that police who responded to the shooting "demonstrated no urgency" in setting up a command post and failed to treat it as an active shooter situation.
The report was released today, nearly 20 months after the shooting at Robb Elementary School. It is only the third official report released on the shooting and identifies "cascading failures" in law enforcement's handling of the mass shooting.
The AP says the Justice Department report is the most comprehensive federal accounting of the police response to the May 24, 2022, shooting.
The report identifies a vast array of problems from failed communication and leadership to inadequate technology and training that federal officials say contributed to the crisis lasting far longer than it should have, even as terrified students inside the classrooms called 911 and agonized parents begged officers to go in.
"The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022 - and the response by officials in the hours and days after - was a failure. 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."
Garland was in Uvalde ahead of the release of the report. Officials also briefed family members before the findings were made public.
The Justice Department has said its investigation would "provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and response that day" and identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for active shooter events.
19 students and two teachers died on May 24, 2022, making the Uvalde mass shooting the deadliest at a U.S. grade school since Sandy Hook almost a decade before and the deadliest in Texas history. 16 people were also injured in the shooting.
Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old gunman, was later killed in a shootout with law enforcement at the scene.
19 Robb Elementary students were killed in the shooting.
- Xavier Javier Lopez, 10
- Amerie Jo Garza, 10
- Uziyah Garcia, 8
- Rojelio Torres, 10
- Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
- Nevaeh Bravo, 10
- Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
- Eliahana 'Elijah Cruz' Torres, 10
- Eliana 'Ellie' Garcia, 9
- Alithia Ramirez, 10
- Jacklyn "Jackie" Cazares, 9
- Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10
- Jailah Nicole Silguero, 11
- Jose Flores Jr, 10
- Alexandria "Lexi" Aniyah Rubio, 10
- Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10
- Tess "Tessy" Marie Mata, 10
- Maranda Gail Mathis, 11
- Layla Salazar, 10
Fourth-grade co-teachers 48-year-old Irma Garcia and 44-year-old Eva Mireles were also killed. Family members said at the time both died trying to protect their students.
It took two-and-a-half weeks for all the victims to be buried, with Amerie Jo Garza buried first on May 31, 2022. Layla Salazar was the last victim to be buried in Uvalde. Uziyah Garcia was later buried in his hometown of San Angelo.
Family members shared photos and names on social media before authorities formally identified the victims.
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Two days after the shooting, Irma Garcia's husband Joe collapsed and died from a heart attack after dropping off flowers at her memorial. The couple, who would have been married 25 years the month after the shooting, were buried together and left behind four children.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit online archive of gun violence incidents since 2013, 11 children, two adults, and three law enforcement officers were also injured in the shooting. The last injured victim was released from a San Antonio hospital more than two months after the shooting.
One of those injured was 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, who testified in a U.S. House committee hearing that she had smeared her friend's blood on her and went into "survival mode" after seeing her classmates and teacher shot to death. According to her pediatrician, who also testified in that hearing, she had suffered a shrapnel injury.
On the morning of May 24, 2022, the gunman reportedly shot his grandmother in the face at their home, then drove to the school and crashed his pickup truck into a concrete ditch behind the school.
Two funeral attendants at the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home across the street told authorities they had witnessed the crash and walked towards it, seeing a man dressed in all black beside the passenger door.
The pair retreated when they saw the man, later identified as Ramos, putting a magazine into a rifle. Ramos then fired multiple times at them, according to authorities.
The gunman then entered the school through a door that hadn't locked when a teacher pulled it shut. He entered a classroom with a broken door lock and then began firing into rooms 111 and 112, shooting more than 100 rounds. Students inside the classrooms called 911 multiple times asking for police to respond.
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Authorities originally released a timeline of events, saying that nearly 20 officers were in the hallway outside for more than 45 minutes before a master key was used to open the door and officers confronted and killed the gunman. However, the Texas House and Senate investigations and committee hearings later revealed a different version of events.
It took 1 hour, 14 minutes, and 8 seconds from when police entered the school to the time they confronted the gunman and killed him, according to a timed DPS log released in June 2022.
Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center released an initial report in July 2022, which alleged there were several missed opportunities to engage or stop the gunman before he entered the school.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin later disputed the report, saying that no Uvalde police officer saw the gunman prior to him entering the school or had any opportunity to take a shot at him.
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The week after the shooting, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan established an investigative committee to look into what happened in Uvalde. The three committee members were tasked with collecting and analyzing evidence from law enforcement, making comprehensive findings, and reporting their conclusions.
The committee released an initial 77-page report the following month, citing "systemic failures" that created a chaotic scene that lasted more than an hour before the gunman was killed. The report was also the first to criticize not only local authorities, but state and federal law enforcement for the "bewildering inaction" of officers on scene.
The report followed weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement.
In total, 376 law enforcement officers — a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo — descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene, says the Texas Tribune. The group was devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the gunman, the report says.
The report also came shortly after a nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video published by the Austin American-Statesman publicly showed for the first time a hesitant and haphazard tactical response, says the Tribune.
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The report also sparked an internal review by Texas DPS into the actions of state police as its findings put more than 90 state troopers at the school during the shooting.
Before this, Texas DPS director Steve McCraw called the law enforcement response an "abject failure," but placed more of the blame on then-Uvalde CISD police chief Pete Arredondo, who he described as the incident commander. According to the Texas House report, Uvalde CISD's own active shooter plan also identified Arredondo as the incident commander.
Arredondo later told the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the person in charge, but rather a frontline first responder and had assumed someone else had taken control. He also stated at the time that he had intentionally left behind both his police and campus radios.
To date, only a handful of people have been fired or have resigned in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.
The first was Arredondo, who was placed on administrative leave a month after the shooting and then fired two months later. Arredondo also later resigned from his Uvalde City Council position, which he had been elected to just weeks before the shooting.
In October 2022, Uvalde CISD officials fired Crimson Elizondo after CNN reported that she was heard in police body camera footage telling other officers at the scene: "If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that." Elizondo had previously resigned from Texas DPS after the shooting and had been hired by the school district.
The next day, Uvalde CISD announced it had suspended its entire district police department pending investigation results. Two employees were also placed on administrative leave at that time: acting district police chief Lt. Miguel Hernandez and director of student services Ken Mueller, who "elected to retire," according to the district.
Just hours after that announcement, Superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell announced plans to retire in a staff memo. He had served in the position since November 2018, and had spent three decades with the district in various roles.
City of Uvalde
At the city level, the acting Uvalde police chief was placed on administrative leave following the Texas House report's release. Lt. Mariano Pargas later left the department voluntarily.
Uvalde community members spoke out at a city council meeting following this, calling for all city police officers who responded that day to be placed on administrative leave. The council responded by saying all responding officers would be interviewed as part of an internal investigation into the department's actions, policies and procedures.
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In April, the city announced it had hired a new assistant police chief, a role created at the direction of Mayor McLaughlin the previous August. There had been no such position at the time of the shooting and the mayor was adamant that the person selected not be from the existing department.
Former Dilley police chief Homer Delgado was selected for the position and assumed the role in May 2023.
State of Texas
In September 2022, Texas DPS announced five of its officers were under investigation for their response to the shooting. Two were suspended, and the cases for all five were sent to the Office of the Inspector General for a formal investigation.
That same month, Texas Rangers Chief Chance Collins retired amid the investigation, which Texas DPS confirmed to FOX 7 Austin almost a month later.
In October 2022, Texas DPS fired Sgt Juan Maldonado, the first state police officer to be fired. Maldonado was the highest-ranking state trooper to initially respond and according to body-camera footage, was outside the school within four minutes of the shooting.
Months later, in January 2023, Texas DPS also fired a Texas Ranger who responded to the shooting. Christopher Ryan Kindell was told in a letter from DPS Director McCraw that his actions following the shooting "did not conform to department standards." Kindell had been previously suspended in September, according to the Texas Tribune.
In February 2023, a Texas DPS spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press that Texas state police would not be disciplining any more officers over the shooting.
Families of the victims have also called for DPS Director McCraw to resign.
Several lawsuits have been filed by the families of both victims and survivors against Uvalde CISD, the Uvalde Police Department, city officials and Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the gun used in the shooting.
California-based law firm Bonner & Bonner served a $27 billion claim to Uvalde CISD and the Uvalde City Council requesting compensation for the victims. Charles Bonner told the Texas Tribune at the time that he also intended to seek damages from law enforcement agencies present at the school during the shooting and Daniel Defense.
In September 2022, the families of three survivors filed the first federal lawsuit related to the shooting. One of the children in the lawsuit was wounded and was best friends with one of the victims, according to the lawyers. The suit named 10 defendants, including the city of Uvalde and Arredondo.
Sandra Torres, the mother of 10-year-old shooting victim Eliahana Torres, also filed a federal lawsuit in November 2022, which alleged that Daniel Defense violated the Federal Trade Commission Act. The lawsuit also accused gun seller Oasis Outback of "reckless dereliction" of selling weapons to the 18-year-old gunman and various law enforcement officers of failing "to follow active shooter protocols."
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In addition to seeking damages, there have been suits filed over the release of information and documents related to the shooting.
In June 2022, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), whose district includes the city of Uvalde, filed a lawsuit against Texas DPS for withholding video from the scene, saying on FOX News: "We are getting half-truths, innuendo and snippets of body cam video that [McCraw] chooses to give."
Two months later, in August 2022, the Associated Press and other news outlets also filed suit, asking a court to force the city, school district, and sheriff's department to turn over 911 recordings, personnel records, and other documents. Newsrooms had been requesting them under Texas open records laws since the shooting.
In December 2022, the city of Uvalde filed a lawsuit against Uvalde County DA Christina Mitchell-Busbee, claiming she had been blocking its efforts to obtain "necessary investigative materials" for its ongoing internal affairs investigation into the Uvalde Police Department.
In June 2023, a state district judge ordered DPS to begin releasing public records related to law enforcement’s response to the shooting, granting a request by The Texas Tribune and other news organizations.
In the wake of the shooting, there were renewed pushes for gun control legislation at both the state and national level, as had been seen previously after Sandy Hook in 2012, Parkland in 2018, and Santa Fe in 2018.
Texas Democrats called for Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special session shortly after the shooting, asking for legislation raising the purchase age for guns, adding red flag laws, tightening background checks, and closing the gun show loophole. However, a special session was not called.
In February, state Sen. Gutierrez filed Uvalde-related gun legislation including SB 911, which would create a bulk ammunition database; SB 912, which would increase penalties for violating safe storage laws; SB 913, which would require gun owners to have liability insurance; and SB 914, which would add restrictions for legal ammunition sales. All four have been stuck in committee since March.
In March, the Texas Senate passed SB 728, which requires county clerks to send information on juvenile mental health cases to Texas DPS, so they can be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bill was later approved by the Texas House and now awaits Abbott's signature.
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HB 2744, also known as the Raise the Age bill, passed through the House Community Safety Committee just two days after another deadly mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets in North Texas. The bill would raise the age to buy an assault-style rifle in Texas from 18 to 21.
However, the bill was left off the Texas House's calendar and has been stuck since May 10. The Texas legislative session is set to end on May 29.
House Bill 3 was passed and signed into law during the 88th Texas Legislative session, which requires school districts to have at least one armed security officer at each district campus during regular school hours.
HB 3 also requires districts to have all district employees with regular interaction with students complete mental health training to help recognize and support mental health issues in students.
At the national level, more gun control legislation has been proposed.
In June 2022, the U.S. House passed H.R. 7910, also known as the Protecting Our Kids Act, on a mostly party-line vote. The bill would raise the age limit nationally for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle to 21 and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds.
The bill has not moved forward in the Senate.
That same month, a bipartisan gun violence bill came forward, which called for toughening background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keeping firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and helping states put in place red flag laws. Most of its $13 billion cost will also help bolster mental health programs and aid schools.
The bill did fall short of more robust gun restrictions, such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but it has been touted as the most impactful gun violence measure by Congress since the now-expired 1993 assault weapons ban.
Within days, the bill passed the Senate and the House and was signed into law by President Joe Biden.
In addition to legislation, the state of Texas has funded resources for trauma and recovery for survivors, victims' families, and the Uvalde community, as well as increased funding for mental health resources and pushed more school safety initiatives.
Resources for trauma and recovery
The week following the shooting, Abbott established a long-term Family Resiliency Center for Uvalde County with a $5 million investment.
The center was designed to serve as a hub for community services such as psychological first aid, crisis counseling, behavioral health services for survivors, first responders and those in the community experiencing vicarious trauma, including school-based mental health services for students and staff.
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Other resources at the center included crime victim services, consulate services, death benefits, counseling and spiritual care, funeral services, childcare and family services, transportation, and language translation.
Different state agencies were also tasked with helping victims and the community with funeral costs, insurance, workers' comp, food assistance, and more.
Uvalde CISD also received a $1.25 million grant to provide trauma counseling for students and faculty affected by the shooting. The grant, provided by Abbott's Public Safety Office, was to fund counseling, trauma-informed care, crisis intervention, and community outreach efforts, as well as establish a district-wide trauma-informed counseling program.
Funding and mental health
In addition to funding mental health services specifically for the Uvalde community, the state looked at boosting mental health programs across the state and in schools.
A couple of weeks after the shooting, Speaker Phelan proposed redirecting more than $100 million in state funding to quickly boost mental health and school safety programs before the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Later on that same month, Abbott's office announced the transfer of $105.5 million to support additional school safety and mental health initiatives through August 31, 2023.
In September 2022, the state gave Uvalde County a $295,562 discretionary state aid grant to fund services for at-risk youth exhibiting emotional or behavioral problems at school who need additional help beyond school-based interventions during fiscal years 2023 and 2024.
The program was also to provide community-based counseling, skill building, and case coordination to kids on probation and those at risk of juvenile justice involvement due to truancy and behavioral problems at school or who have siblings already involved in the justice system.
The program was also expected to work closely with schools to prevent kids from becoming involved in the justice system.
School safety initiatives
State officials also pushed for funding and directives to boost school safety in districts across Texas.
The week following the shooting, Abbott requested the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide strategies to make public schools safer, including weekly inspections of exterior doors and increased law enforcement presence on campus.
Abbott also directed the TEA to create the position of Chief of School Safety and Security within the agency, who would report directly to the TEA Commissioner and have a direct line to the governor's office.
John P. Scott, a former US Secret Service agent in Dallas, was announced in October 2022 as the one to fill the position.
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In July 2022, Texas State's Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) announced plans to start "random intruder detection audits" of public schools in the fall, with a goal of inspecting 100% of school districts and 75% of campuses across the state by the end of the school year.
In their Fall 2022 report, the Center says they audited just under 2,900 campuses between September and December 2022. Inspectors at 95.3% of those campuses did not gain unauthorized access and 28.4% of those campuses received corrective actions.
More funding was announced in October 2022 to enhance school safety, including $400 million to assist school districts in replacing or upgrading doors, windows, fencing, communications, and other safety measures and $15 million to assist in the construction of a new elementary school in Uvalde.
Communities, organizations, businesses, and individuals also came together to support the victims' families, survivors and the Uvalde community at large through fundraising, memorials, donations, and special appearances.
The first big fundraising effort was the Robb School Memorial Fund, established by the OneStar Foundation with the First State Bank of Uvalde to directly benefit those impacted by the mass shooting. The fund has since stopped accepting donations.
Three major businesses also held donation campaigns in the days and weeks after the shooting.
AT&T launched a text-to-donate campaign to provide financial support for mental health and grief support services. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation also contributed $50,000 to the Robb School Memorial Fund.
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Beloved Texas grocery chain H-E-B and its founding family pledged $10 million to help build a new elementary school campus to replace Robb Elementary, with enhanced educational offerings, state-of-the-art safety and security measures, and infrastructure to support new technology.
More than 1,000 Texas McDonald's restaurants held a donation drive that raised over $250,000 for the Robb School Memorial Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities-San Antonio, which had been serving family members from Uvalde and had created a special fund to support those families.
Texas State also set up the Uvalde Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide financial support to current and future students affected by the shooting. The university said at the time that a current student and recent graduate had lost family members in the shooting.
Several memorials popped up for the shooting victims, including 18-foot murals in Uvalde by Austin artist Ruben Esquivel and crosses and flowers set up next to the Robb Elementary School sign.
In June 2022, almost 300 Uvalde High School seniors, school and district officials, and community members. 21 "Uvalde Strong" placards were displayed in front of the graduating class, each one representing a person killed in the shooting, and the victims' names were read out to the crowd.
The memorials also carried on through to the new school year.
The El Progresso Memorial Library in Uvalde hosted a back-to-school celebration in August 2022, where the families received handmade wooden figures of each victim made by Pflugerville artist Kimberly Morgan with GIGGLI Creations.
In September 2022, Texas school districts joined together to honor and show their support for Uvalde CISD as students began the new school year. Students, parents, teachers and community members wore maroon and white, Uvalde CISD's colors, to show support for the district on the first day of the new year.
Several organizations in Texas stepped up to show support for the Uvalde community, including Austin nonprofit Operation Get Out, which gifted 800 brand-new bicycles to 3rd-6th grade students at Flores Elementary in late August. Students from Robb were moved to Flores after Robb was shut down.
The Houston Texans donated $400,000 to the Robb School Memorial Fund shortly after the shooting, as well as having members of their organization visit Uvalde and meet with the high school football team. The team also surprised the players with new jerseys, pants, cleats, socks, gloves and other gear provided by Nike.
The Texans later displayed special "Uvalde Strong" helmet decals during their 2022 season opener and hosted the Uvalde HS football team as their guests, with H-E-B helping pay for travel and a suite to watch the game.
Austin FC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo FC and Houston Dash wore remembrance patches during their Memorial Day weekend matches shortly after the shooting. The four Texas teams also donated to the Robb School Memorial Fund, which was also the beneficiary for Austin FC's Verde Store roundup program for June 2022.
Austin FC also donated a mini-pitch to the Uvalde community through its nonprofit arm, the 4ATX Foundation, which opened a fall soccer camp in Uvalde for over 700 young players at no cost to their families.
In October 2022, the San Antonio Spurs made a stop in Uvalde where elementary school students and families got to join in on a practice ahead of the 2022-23 season. Players and students shot baskets and practiced their dribbling skills, with players even lifting little ones up to dunk. Players also signed autographs for the kids.
One of the first individuals to voice support following the shooting was Uvalde native and actor Matthew McConaughey, who visited his hometown and appeared with Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas). McConaughey was also among one of the first high-profile celebrities to address the tragedy in a plea to "control" the "epidemic" of school shootings.
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That same day, actress and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle paid a visit to Uvalde and was spotted placing a bouquet of white roses at a memorial for the victims.
Country music artist and Amarillo native Kevin Fowler visited Mayah Zamora, one of the students injured in the shooting, in the hospital. Fowler wrote on social media that Zamora was a big fan and that her family had planned to come see him perform.
In July 2022, former NFL and MLB superstar Bo Jackson came forward and revealed he and a friend had donated $170,000 to help pay for the funerals for the victims. He told the Associated Press that he felt compelled to support the victims' families after the loss of so many children.
The Texas Tribune, Associated Press, KSAT, Uvalde Leader-News, FOX News, FOX TV Digital Team, FOX 26 Houston, and FOX 4 Dallas contributed to this report.
FOX 7 Austin reported on this from Austin.