Several law enforcement officers who responded to the mass shooting at a Uvalde school in May 2022 have been ordered to testify before a grand jury investigating the botched response.
Several officers who were on the scene at Robb Elementary School on May 24, where 19 children were massacred, have been subpoenaed to testify in person, which could lead to criminal charges.
An explosive Justice Department report on the shooting released earlier this year found that Uvalde police officers stood outside a classroom for 77 minutes as schoolchildren screamed for “help” after a gunman opened fire.
Deputies’ testimony will begin in the Uvalde County Courthouse next week and marks an acceleration of the 21-month criminal investigation.
Members of the Texas Department of Public Safety and local police have been called to testify, and grand juries could have the opportunity to question the officers themselves.
After gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire inside Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, Uvalde police came under scrutiny after waiting 77 minutes as the massacre broke out.
The victims of the Uvalde school shooting on May 24, 2022
After gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, stormed Robb Elementary School on the morning of May 24, 2022, the report found that the “most critical tactical failure” was that police did not consider the event “active “.
From there, it was 77 minutes before the 376 law enforcement officers could kill Ramos, only after he shot and killed 21 people in several classrooms.
“The response to the May 24, 2022, mass casualty incident at Robb Elementary School was a failure,” the Justice Department report concluded.
Among the tragic conclusions in Thursday’s report was Garland’s admission that the young victims’ lives could have been saved if protocols had been properly followed, a concession that parents say was a long time coming.
One of two Uvalde teachers killed during the 2022 mass shooting was left to die on a walkway, while crying students wounded by bullets were carried to buses before receiving medical assistance, the report said.
Victims, both adults and children, were frantically carried out of bloodied classrooms with no stretchers available to load them into ambulances.
One teacher was left to die on the catwalk before being covered and taken to an ambulance. Another body, taken from the school, was placed outside and then abandoned, while a group of police crowded nearby.
Ambulances mistakenly took deceased victims to hospital, others failed to properly secure seriously injured patients on stretchers, and vital blood supplies that were airlifted to the scene were not used, despite being needed.
The victims’ furious relatives called on their district attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee (pictured), to file criminal charges, asking, “What more do you need?”
Evadulia Orta, left, Felicia Martínez, right, and other relatives of the shooting victims hold back tears as they listen to the scathing report.
Dora Mendoza, right, is hugged by a friend as she leaves a meeting where Attorney General Merrick Garland shared a report on the findings of an investigation into the 2022 school shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Police officers walk past a memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26, 2022.
Injured victims were left on stretchers on the sidewalks outside Robb Elementary School because different medical teams had abruptly seized and commandeered their ambulances.
The children, wounded and grazed by bullets during the attack inside their school, were placed on buses heading to the civic center without being seen by medical personnel.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement: “The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better.” The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, and the response of officials in the hours and days that followed, was a failure that should not have happened.
The Justice Department collected more than 14,100 items from the scene for analysis. This included hours of videos, photographs, 260 interviews, multiple visits to Uvalde, as well as police policies, procedures and training.
Federal officials said their review of the mass shooting was made public ‘to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses; identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events; and provide a roadmap for safety and community engagement before, during and after such incidents.’
KEY CHARACTERS AND THEIR FLAWS
In the photo: shooter Salvador Ramos
Police Chief Pete Arredondo, Uvalde Police Chief Mariano Pargas and Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco were named in the report.
They arrived at the scene in a matter of minutes, but neither took control of the situation.
Arredondo, who was the de facto commander at the scene, was criticized in the federal report for intentionally failing to try to save people who were alive and trapped in the classroom with the shooter.
The report said he: “Recognised the likelihood of casualties and fatalities in the room with the shooter and intentionally prioritized evacuations over immediate entry into the room.”
“This flies in the face of active shooter response principles, which state that the priority is to address and eliminate the threat.”
The federal report also details well-documented communication problems that officials say hampered the response. This included Arredondo discarding his radios upon his arrival because he thought they were unnecessary.
Although Arredondo attempted to contact officers by phone elsewhere in the school hallway, he told them not to enter the classrooms “because he appeared to determine that other victims should first be removed from nearby classrooms to prevent further injuries.”
The scathing report summarized: ‘Chief Arredondo had the authority, training and tools necessary.
“Failed to provide adequate leadership, command and control, including failing to establish an incident command structure and direct entry to classrooms 111 and 112.”
The Justice Department singled out Sheriff Nolasco with critical rigor.
He had vital information about the gunman that he did not share, according to the report.
The Justice Department wrote: ‘Sheriff Nolasco did not seek or establish a command post, establish a unified command, share intelligence information he learned from (the shooter’s) relatives, or assign an intelligence officer to gather information on the topic.
‘At one point, Sheriff Nolasco and Acting UPD Chief Pargas were between 10 and 15 feet from each other outside the exterior northwest hallway door.
‘However, they did not coordinate with each other and continued to act independently.
‘Without proper command and control, a ranger and constable were taking on roles traditionally performed by an incident commander.
‘On the day of the incident, no leader effectively questioned the decisions and lack of urgency of UCISD Police Chief Arredondo and UPD Interim Chief Pargas to enter classrooms 111/112.’
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo was singled out in the new Justice Department report for his catastrophic lack of leadership during the mass shooting.
City Police Lt. Mariano Pargas was singled out in the new Justice Department report for his catastrophic lack of leadership during the mass shooting.
Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco, left, is comforted by Ted Cruz. Nolasco was singled out for his catastrophic lack of leadership during the mass shooting.