On 24 May 2022, a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School and killed 21 people, including 19 students and two adults.
Police took more than an hour to confront the gunman despite being on scene within three minutes of the first shots fired.
A DOJ report examining the shooting was released on Thursday, and found that a “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training” by the Uvalde police may have cost innocent lives. It further found that Uvalde police "demonstrated no urgency" in establishing a command post and failed in its duty to respond to the attack with speed and efficiency.
“The response to the May 24, 2022, mass casualty incident at Robb Elementary School was a failure," the DOJ wrote in the report.
The Uvalde police critically failed to recognize the gunman as an active shooter, and instead treated him like a barricaded suspect, according to the DOJ report.
“Officers on scene should have recognized the incident as an active shooter scenario and moved and pushed forward immediately and continuously toward the threat until the room was entered, and the threat was eliminated," the report says. “That did not occur.”
The report reveals that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District did not have a an active shooter policy, but did have an annex that appointed the district’s police chief as the incident commander in the event of a mass shooting.
Chain of command confusion contributed to the muddled response on the day of the attack. Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo did not believe he was the incident commander, which slowed the police response to the shooting.
The report found that Uvalde’s acting police chief Mariano Pargas was the best suited to handle the incident, but ruled that even he lacked adequate training to respond to an active shooter, according to Fox28.
“UPD Acting Chief Pargas had not received any incident command, active shooter, or tactical training,” the report said. “This lack of training is not in accordance with UPD policy and suggests a failure of agency leadership to hold personnel accountable.”
The lack of coordination in the police response also hampered the first responders who were brought on scene to treat the wounded and the handle the victims. The bodies of the victims were reportedly moved around and left in hallways, while some injured students were put on busses and sent off-site before they could be examined by EMS workers, the report found.
“Several students with bullet wounds, grazes, and other injuries were directed onto buses that went to the civic center without ever having been brought to the medics’ attention,” an EMS worker quoted in the report said.
The report also found that untrained or under-trained Uvalde police notified the families of those killed in the attack. An FBI team trained in notifying families about loved ones killed in violent incidents was reportedly excluded from notifying the families, according to the report.
Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Uvalde this week along with other DOJ officials. He said the victims and the survivors of the attack “deserved better.”
“The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better,” he 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.”