UVALDE, Texas — The Texas House committee investigating the Robb Elementary School mass shooting released its preliminary report Sunday, outlining multiple failures from not only law enforcement, but Robb Elementary staff and the shooter's family and friends.
The 77-page report described the shooter's family not warning law enforcement about the shooter's troubled behavior, a school district that disregarded the rules outlined in its safety plan and a sloppy police response from trained individuals.
Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any “villains” in the course of its investigation.
"There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregious poor decision-making. We recognize that the impact of this tragedy is felt most profoundly by the people of Uvalde in ways we cannot fully comprehend," the report read.
The report was put together by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R), the chair of the investigative committee, who represents District 83 in Lubbock, Rep. Joe Moody (D), the Vice-Chair of the committee who represents District 78 in El Paso and Hon. Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.
The three-member committee met with the families of the victims Sunday before addressing the media to give them each an individual copy of the report and show them surveillance video captured the day of the shooting.
Some fathers of victims who lost their children in the shooting said they weren't able to get in because they weren't on the "list."
The video released by the committee is edited to start after the gunman walks in and there is no audio on it. The committee said they never wanted to include the gunman in the video because he didn't deserve recognition and didn't want others to be inspired.
"We're not going to show his image. He wanted that and he did not deserve it," said Burrows.
That's compared to the video that was obtained last week by KHOU 11's sister station, KVUE, and the Austin American-Statesman, which you can see here.
After the report was released, the House Investigative Committee held a news conference to discuss the report and video. You can watch that in full here.
And after the news conference, Mayor Don McLaughlin held an impromptu news conference. You can see that full video here.
Uvalde police bodycam was also released on Sunday and we're going through that. On one of the bodycams, Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo was seen inside the school. He wasn't visible on the hallway video.
What is in the report
The law enforcement response has been widely criticized in the weeks following the Robb Elementary mass shooting. Video obtained by KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman last week showed inaction by law enforcement.
And back in June, DPS Director Steve McCraw put the blame for the poor law enforcement response primarily on Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo. In testimony back then, McCraw said, "The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
But the committee reported that the failures went well beyond Arredondo. There were several other agencies that responded. In all, 376 law enforcement officers responded, the majority of whom were federal and state first responders. Arredondo’s UCISD police presence was five officers. The breakdown of law enforcement -- 149 U.S. Border Patrol agents, 91 state police, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff's deputies and 5 Uvalde CISD police officers.
The committee said the other agencies should have filled in for the failing leadership when they noticed the chaos. But – the committee determined – they didn’t.
The report did confirm that U.S. Border Patrol agents were the ones who got into the classroom and shot and killed the shooter and they did so without direction from Arredondo.
There was still plenty of blame for Arredondo. Last month, he told the Texas Tribune that he didn’t consider himself the incident commander, but the report said the school’s active shooting response plan – which was co-authored by Arredondo – named him as such, regardless of which agencies responded. And according to the committee, officers they interviewed told them that they assumed Arredondo was in charge or wasn’t sure who was.
The committee cited the school district’s active shooter response plan, which the consolidated school district chief at the time, Arredondo, signed off on, will “become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at that scene.”
Yet Arredondo, who was one of the first responders on the scene testified, “While you’re in there you don’t title yourself. I know our policy states you’re the incident commander. My approach and thought was responding as a police officer.”
Chief Arredondo testified that he immediately began to think of the attacker as being cornered and the situation as one of a barricaded subject and didn’t think there were kids in the classroom. But according to audio on bodycam video released on Sunday night, he contradicts himself, saying on the phone back on May 24, “So we’re clearing off the rest of the building, so we don’t have any more except what’s in there, obviously.”
Members stated at the end of their report, “It is likely that most of the deceased victims perished immediately during the attackers initial barrage of gunfire. However, given the information known about the victims who survived, it is plausible that some could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue.”
On the day after the mass shooting, Governor Abbott initially praised law enforcement, saying that it could have been worse. On May 25, Abbott said, ‘It’s is a fact that because of their quick response, getting on the scene, being able to respond to the gunman and eliminate the gunman, they were able to save lives.”
Two days later, he learned that wasn’t the case, that there had been failures in law enforcement’s response. He said he was ‘livid’ about the inaccurate account originally given to him by both law enforcement and non-law enforcement sources.
There were also failures at Robb Elementary, according to the report. The gunman was able to get in through a series of unlocked doors.
There were safeguards to keep an intruder out, but those safeguards reportedly weren’t adhered to. The committee heard from witnesses who said that doors were often left unlocked and that doors were often left propped open because there was a shortage of keys. Witnesses said the school actually suggested doing that for substitute teachers and those without keys.
There are also questions about locks on doors in the classroom where the gunman entered. Teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who was shot and survived the attack, said he had reported that his door wouldn’t always lock, though the committee found that school records don’t show any work orders for the malfunctioning door and a custodian testified that he didn’t know it was an issue.
The report also found that some faculty and staff didn’t take the alert seriously. They say because there was often immigration-related police activity setting off the alerts, that they had become desensitized to it. The committee also determined that communication among everyone at the school was hampered by bad connectivity and there was never anything announced on the PA system.
Missed warning signs
According to the report, family and friends were aware of the shooter's unstable behavior and love for guns but authorities were never aware.
Before he was of age to buy guns, the report said he asked family members to buy them for him, but family members uniformly refused. He was, however, able to buy several accessories before age 18.
After he turned 18 on May 16, the report says he spent $3,000 on two AR-15-type rifles that were sent to a Uvalde gun store. An uncle, the report said, drove him to the gun store twice. The gun store is also a restaurant, according to the uncle, and he said he thought his nephew was hungry.
There were also people in the gun store who reported being nervous about him, according to the report.
He was also fired from two fast food jobs, according to the report. At one restaurant, he reportedly harassed a female employee, and at another, he was said to be a recluse, only talking to one person and that conversation was about guns.
The report says that the shooter had an unstable home life, with no father figure and a mother who struggled with substance abuse disorder and that his family moved often and lived in poverty.
The attacker also had no experience with firearms, according to the report, and the Robb Elementary mass shooting may have been the first time he ever discharged a firearm.
The shooting took place in his former fourth-grade classroom. His former fourth-grad teacher said he claimed to be victim of bullying.
Despite showing sociopathic and violent tendencies, the shooter received no mental health help.
The committee report said that no one had previously notified law enforcement about the shooter.
The report is the result of one of several investigations into the shooting, including another led by the Justice Department. A report earlier this month by tactical experts at Texas State University alleged that a Uvalde police officer had a chance to stop the gunman before he went inside the school armed with an AR-15.
But in an example of the conflicting statements and disputed accounts since the shooting, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has said that never happened. That report had been done at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which McLaughlin has increasingly criticized and accused of trying to minimize the role of its troopers during the massacre.
McCraw has called the police response an abject failure.
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