Report Suggests Delayed Uvalde Medical Response


Uvalde Memorial at School | Image by Getty Images

New details are emerging about the delayed response to the May 24 massacre that left two teachers and 19 students dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, via a joint investigative report published Tuesday by The Texas Tribune, The Washington Post, and ProPublica.

Confusion about who was in command, police cars blocking roadways for ambulances, and helicopters with critical blood supplies ordered to wait miles away all delayed medical treatment for critically wounded victims that could have been life-saving, according to the report.

The news organizations’ supposed findings add new scrutiny to local, state, and federal officials already under investigation over the response to the shooting, where officers reportedly waited 77 minutes to confront the gunman.

“The failure of police to have an organized response, the failure of them to communicate really what was going on to medics, really made it hard for them to do their jobs,” said Zach Despart, a political reporter with The Texas Tribune.

Despart was part of the investigative reporting team that obtained previously unreleased videos, audio, and interviews to look further into the response on the day of the massacre.

The report asserted that dozens of locked police vehicles parked along the roadways blocked ambulances from reaching the scene, forcing medics to frantically try various routes to the school, even crossing through residential yards.

One ambulance was still struggling to find an unblocked route to the school 33 minutes after a Border Patrol tactical team breached the classrooms and killed the 18-year-old gunman, according to the report.

The report found that two ambulances were outside the Texas elementary school when the gunman was taken down, but it was not nearly enough for the 10 gunshot victims that were taken out of the classrooms alive.

“There were other ambulances nearby, but they struggled to immediately reach the scene because so many police had responded they parked in the narrow streets. The ambulances couldn’t get through,” Despart explained.

An unidentified fire department official allegedly told helicopters carrying critical supplies of blood to wait at an airport three miles away from the school instead of landing at the scene, according to the report.

Ultimately, no helicopters were used to transport victims from the scene, the investigation concluded.

“There were helicopters, ambulance helicopters, that were available, that wanted to respond to the scene. They could not figure out who was in charge. In some cases, they were told to divert or not come directly to the scene,” Despart claimed.

The report focused on three critically wounded shooting victims who had a pulse when they were carried out of the classrooms but later died.

Two of the victims, 44-year-old teacher Eva Mireles and 10-year-old student Xavier Lopez, reportedly did not have critical resources available to them when expected, delaying their transport to the hospital.

The other victim, 9-year-old Jacklyn “Jackie” Cazares, survived an hour after she was shot and was placed in an ambulance after medics finally entered the classroom, but she died during transport to the hospital, per the report.

It remains unclear whether any victims could have survived had they received medical care sooner, as autopsy reports have yet to be released.

However, some experts apparently told the news outlets that at least one victim — Mireles, who was shot in the first few minutes of the attack — likely had survivable injuries since she was conscious and responsive when she was found.

Records reviewed by the news organizations show that while Mireles was initially treated at the scene because an ambulance was not available, a decision was then allegedly made not to take her to the hospital. She was later declared dead in an ambulance that never left the school.

“Had medics gotten to her quickly, there’s a good chance she would’ve survived,” said Babak Sarani, director of critical care at George Washington University Hospital.

Six other students, including one who was seriously wounded, were transported to a hospital in a school bus without any trained medical staff on board, according to Texas EMS records reviewed by the news organizations. All six of the students survived.

An investigation into the response to the massacre remains ongoing by the Texas Rangers, an arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The results of the Rangers’ investigation will be reviewed by the Uvalde County District Attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee, who could decide to bring criminal charges against any responding officials.

The news organization’s recent findings are frustrating for some victims’ families and lawmakers.

Amanda Koski, a representative for some of the families of victims in Uvalde, said the findings in the latest investigative report are a blow to families before Christmas. She said they were shocked but understood the information needed to be public.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, is calling for investigative hearings into the response and more this legislative session.

“It’s a giant concern to me that we don’t have statewide elected officials calling for some real investigation into this,” he said.

”Clearly, we’ve had system failure, communication failure, cowardice. You name it. If this isn’t [an] institutional failure, then I don’t know what is,” Gutierrez added.

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