The sad lessons of the Uvalde school shooting in Texas

(Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times)

The sad lessons of the Uvalde school shooting in Texas

On Ed

Robin Abcarian

January 19, 2024

The Justice Department’s report on what went wrong in Uvalde, Texas, nearly two years ago when an 18-year-old gunman armed with a high-powered rifle massacred 19 children and two teachers in their classrooms is utterly depressing and utterly damning.

It will not make anyone who reads it feel any better about the grotesque events of May 24, 2022, including the helplessness of the 33 students and three teachers who were trapped in a classroom with the gunman for more than an hour while police officers walked around. around the hallway outside.

But it will, one must fervently hope, help other law enforcement agencies avoid the kind of deadly mistakes made at Robb Elementary School two days before the start of summer vacation. For that reason, the report is, in any case, worth studying.

Many who followed the terrible events in Uvalde will remember the bumbling police response, the conflicting information from police representatives afterward, the anguish of the families who never received adequate coverage of the tragedy. Although the Texas House of Representatives released its own scathing report in July 2022, the new


goes into excruciating detail in a much longer, sweeping, minute-by-minute account of the tragedy.

Justice Department investigators spent months interviewing 267 people and reviewing thousands of documents, photographs, body cameras and CCTV footage, training manuals and transcripts.


over 500 pages

, the document paints a picture of an almost Keystone Kops-like response to the tragedy: there was no proper chain of command. The local police chief threw away his radios upon arrival because, he told investigators, he wanted his hands free so he could communicate with only his phone and voice in that hectic and deadly situation.

After several of his officers were shot with shrapnel as they ran to classrooms where they heard gunfire, the chief ordered them to stay behind and evacuate other classrooms rather than engage the gunman. So instead of storming the two merged classrooms where the gunman continued to slaughter children, the officers retreated and waited for SWAT officers and specialized equipment to arrive. This was a terrible, unforgivable failure.

As the report notes, active shooter protocols were developed after the devastating 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado


officers to confront and neutralize a threat as quickly as possible. Everything else, including officer safety, is secondary to that goal, according to the report. This, in a nutshell, is why choosing a career in law enforcement is an act of courage. You must be willing to rush toward danger, not avoid it.

According to the report, communication among first responders was abysmal. Rumors swirled, with some falsely telling each other that the Uvalde police chief was negotiating with the shooter in a classroom. Some mistakenly believed that the shooter had already been killed, as they perceived what they perceived to be a lack of urgency among officers already on the scene.

Police wasted valuable time looking for the key to a classroom that was most likely unlocked, the report said, but officers would not have known that because, oddly enough, they never tried to turn the doorknob.

Ultimately, nearly 400 law enforcement officers from at least two dozen agencies showed up. No one knew who was in charge; ambulances were unable to get past police vehicles to access the school. Perhaps most devastating, although officers arrived on the scene within three minutes of the gunman storming the campus, 77 minutes would pass before he was killed. During that time, police heard him fire 45 bullets.

Some passages from the report are almost too painful to read. The account of a 16-minute 911 call by fourth-graders trapped in their classroom with the gunman is particularly brutal. While officers waited in the hallway, the children begged for help:

I do not wanna die. My teacher is dead. One of my teachers is still alive, but has been shot. There are many dead bodies.

Had officers been allowed to do their job, said Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, who unveiled the report Thursday at a news conference in Uvalde, is said to have saved lives and helped people survive.

According to the report, the aftermath of the massacre was also ruined. Injured children, some with gunshot wounds, were put on a bus instead of being treated by medics. Some families were wrongly told that their children were still alive.

The extent of the disinformation, misleading and misleading stories, leaks and lack of communication about what happened, according to Garland, 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.

Garland had no choice but to address the larger problem we face, the easy availability of guns, which makes mass shootings in the United States an almost daily occurrence. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit information center, there have already been 14 mass shooting events this year

defined as incidents in which at least four victims are shot

three of which took place in California.

Our children deserve better than to grow up in a country where an 18-year-old has easy access to a weapon that belongs on a battlefield, not in a classroom, Garland told an audience that included tearful Uvalde families. We hope to honor the victims and survivors by working together to try to prevent something like this from happening again, here or anywhere.

It’s really sad that we have to focus our energy on developing better responses to mass shootings, instead of taking weapons of war off our streets in the first place.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles