A Uvalde Police Department officer had the opportunity to shoot and kill the man responsible for killing 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at Robb Elementary School but did not take the shot.
A report released Wednesday by Texas State University's ALERRT Center said the Uvalde Police Department didn't have the equipment or initiative to take action against the shooter, was tactically unprepared and didn't follow accepted practice taught to all state law enforcement agencies.
However, the most startling revelation was that a Uvalde officer had the shooter in sight but called his supervisor for permission to take the shot. The ALERRT report said the officer didn't need to ask for permission.
"In this instance, the UPD officer would have heard gunshots and/or reports of gunshots and observed an individual approaching the school building armed with a rifle," the report said. "A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that use of deadly force was warranted. Furthermore, the UPD officer was approximately 148 yards from the west hall exterior door. One-hundred and forty-eight yards is well within the effective range of an AR-15 platform."
Law enforcement work the scene after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School where 19 people, including 18 children, were killed on May 24. Photo by Getty Images.
READ THE FULL REPORT https://alerrt.org/
Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, law enforcement doctrine on active shooters has focused on "Stop the Killing and then "Stop the Dying." ALERRT's analysis said that doctrine seemed to be ignored.
"To adhere to the priority of life, the first responding officers’ actions should be determined based on the current driving force," the report said. "In this instance, there is a suspect actively shooting inside an occupied elementary school. The active gunfire is the driving force, and the officers correctly responded to this driving force by moving toward the rooms that were being attacked."
The report said the shooter crashed his pickup truck at 11:28 a.m., then fired at two workers at funeral home across the street from Robb Elementary. At 11:31 a.m., the Uvalde officer arrives and spots the shooter. At about the same time, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District officer drives through a gate and speeds unto the campus ball field and playgrounds.
The report said the school police officer was driving too fast to see the shooter, and the Uvalde officer hesitated just long enough from taking a shot.
"The officer did comment that he was concerned that if he missed his shot, the rounds could have penetrated the school and injured students," the report said. "We also note that current State of Texas standards for patrol rifle qualifications do not require officers to fire their rifles from more than 100 yards away from the target. It is, therefore, possible that the officer had never fired his rifle at a target that was that far away. Ultimately, the decision to use deadly force always lies with the officer who will use the force. If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired."
Instead, the shooter gained access to the school's interior, leading to the killing of 21 and the wounding of 17 others. From that point, the tactical situation slipped further away from the Uvalde authorities.
Department of Public Safety Troopers place flowers at Robb Elementary School sign on May 25, 2022. (Photo by The Kerr County Lead).
Established in 2002, ALERRT's trained more than 130,000 police officers in active shooter situations, and the FBI recognized the program as the national standard in this training. With access to video, the scene and audio, the ALERRT report was able to put together a critical timeline and assess the response. ALERRT was asked by the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide the assessment.
In the report, ALERRT identified several problem areas, but most importantly the lack of response to the active shooter.
"The suspect was actively firing his weapon when the officers entered the building, and a reasonable officer would assume that there were injured people in the classrooms," the report said. "The officers also knew the suspect was still alive and preventing them from accessing the wounded in the classrooms. These injured people are a driving force."
Yet the officers waited for more than an hour to go into rooms 111 and 112 where the shooter had holed up. The report said that a lack of clear command was another issue. Uvalde Independent Consolidated School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo is at the center of this issue, and it's clear he viewed this as a barricade and hostage situation rather than an active shooter, but the report says it was always an active shooter event.
"We commend the officers for quickly entering the building and moving toward the sounds of gunfire," the report said. "However, when the officers were fired at, momentum was lost. The officers fell back, and it took more than an hour to regain momentum and gain access to critically injured people."
Arredondo's lack of response is under furious scrutiny by law enforcement, and Col. Steve McCraw of the Department of Public Safety said it was a failure. Arredondo is on administrative leave from the school district, but McCraw is also under fire for the way the incident was disseminated to the community and the media.
Arredondo spent about 10 minutes trying to coax the shooter out of the classroom. The report doesn't clearly say if Arredondo ordered a U.S. Border Patrol SWAT team to enter the room, but they entered at 12:50 p.m. and killed the shooter.
The ALERRT report is one of the first by a law enforcement-focused group to highlight the failures of May 24 at Robb Elementary School.
The report also is critical of the efforts to breach the room and notes that Uvalde police did not initially have the right equipment to breach doors, walls or windows, but they also said it appears that the door to room 111 was unlocked. The ALERRT staff expected officers to have "go bags" or a basic tactical kit required before special weapons and tactical teams could arrive.
But it was the consistent lack of action by law enforcement, all monitored through body cameras and the school's video system, that raised the most questions.
"The UCISD PD Chief did request SWAT/tactical teams," the report said. "SWAT was called, but it takes time for the operators to arrive on scene. In the meantime, it is imperative that an immediate action plan is created. This plan is used if active violence occurs. It appears that the officers did not create an immediate action plan."
In the first three minutes of entering the school, the shooter had fired an estimated 100 rounds into rooms 111 and 112.
"While we do not have definitive information at this point, it is possible that some of the people who died during this event could have been saved if they had received more rapid medical care," the report said.