DOJ Releases Incident Report on Uvalde Shooting

Robb Elementary School | Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice released its report on Thursday regarding the law enforcement actions and lessons learned during the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The “Critical Incident Review” (CIR) report was announced to be released on January 15 by Uvalde Consolidated School District Superintendent Ashley Chohlis during a board meeting, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

This report detailed “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training” that occurred at Robb Elementary School “prior to, during, and after” the shooting.

The CIR stated there were “several stimuli that should have prompted leadership to direct a team to enter the classrooms and engage the subject.”

“For the span of more than 1 hour, between 11:37 a.m. and 12:49 p.m., there were at least 10 stimulus events, including at least six separate instances of gunfire totaling approximately 45 rounds in law enforcement officer presence, as well as officer injuries and the presence of victims,” read the report.

“Any one of these events should have driven the law enforcement response to take steps to immediately stop the killing per the active shooter protocols and guidance described.”

The CIR stated that extraordinary numbers of additional law enforcement officers arrived as the incident progressed.

This volume of arrivals resulted in a lack of “basic structure for establishing a unified command to provide the necessary awareness and direction.”

“The lack of clear command presence also left arriving officers in limbo with a lack of urgency. The lack of urgency became confusing to later arriving officers, many of whom arrived from jurisdictions as far as an hour away and, when they saw the lack of urgency, sadly and incorrectly assumed that the threat had been eliminated,” explained the CIR.

The CIR team also evaluated the communication tactics after the event, explaining that there were “inconsistencies in messaging” and that the “misinformation caused further harm to victims of the tragedy.”

“The extent of misinformation, misguided and misleading narratives, leaks, and lack of communication about what happened on May 24 is unprecedented and has had an extensive, negative impact on the mental health and recovery of the family members and other victims, as well as the entire community of Uvalde,” stated the DOJ in the report.

Multiple recommendations for improvement were provided regarding communication, including agencies providing a clear outline to the public “regarding the nature of the critical incident and how it will release information regarding it.”

“An agency should be as direct as possible when it is revealing law enforcement mistakes in responses and actions. An indirect approach can undermine faith and trust in law enforcement,” recommended the CIR team.

“All persons involved in delivering information during and after a mass violence incident should be trained in best practices that are victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally appropriate. Typically, a trained PIO or designated representative should be the person speaking to the press and family members or advising the designated representative as to the best practices approach.”

The CIR concluded the report by saying that the response by law enforcement during and after the shooting was an outright failure, adding that the “painful lessons detailed in this report are not meant to exacerbate an already tragic situation or further the pain and trauma to those directly impacted by the events.”

“The goal is that this report provides answers to those directly impacted, while also conveying recommendations and lessons learned to the nation.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release about the report that the victims and survivors of the shooting “deserved better” than what was provided to them in response to the incident.

“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. We hope to honor the victims and survivors by working together to try to prevent anything like this from happening again, here or anywhere,” said Garland in the release.

Several law enforcement leaders involved have defended their response to the massacre. Among them is former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief Pete Arredondo, one of the officers terminated as a result of his handling of matters.

Arredondo maintained that his decision and orders to treat the gunman as a barricaded subject rather than an active shooter was a sensible effort to prevent further casualties, as The Dallas Express previously reported. He said that he assumed the children inside the two classrooms with the gunman were already dead based on the amount of gunfire he’d heard, so he chose to prioritize evacuating other students and faculty.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw also held that his agency did not fail in its response to the shooting, as The Dallas Express covered. He acknowledged that mistakes were made but denied that they demonstrated a systemic failure within DPS that would warrant him being removed or stepping down from his position.

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