5 key takeaways from the Texas House report on Uvalde massacre

·9 min read

The Texas House of Representatives released a preliminary report Sunday outlining a series of failures by multiple law enforcement agencies in their response to the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman who was eventually killed at the scene.

The 82-page report was released by a special investigative committee of the Republican-controlled Texas state Legislature.

Here are five key takeaways.

There was a massive law enforcement response, but no one took control

Law enforcement officers are seen in a hallway of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
Law enforcement officers are seen in a hallway of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. (Texas House Investigative Committee/Handout via Reuters)

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers from 23 agencies responded to the shooting, ranging from 149 Border Patrol personnel and 91 members of the Texas Department of Public Safety to single officers from neighboring jurisdictions. The Uvalde Police Department had 25 officers present, the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office had 16, and the Uvalde school district had five.

While school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo had been cited by state officials as the on-site commander responsible for the failed response, the report said that no one from state and federal law enforcement asked to take control of the situation. Arredondo had told the Texas Tribune in June that he didn’t consider himself in charge of the scene.

Earlier this month, Arredondo resigned from his position on the Uvalde City Council, a seat he was elected to prior to the shooting. He had secretly taken the oath of office in June, but had not attended any meetings and has been on administrative leave from his position overseeing the school district’s police force since late June.

Parents who attended a Sunday press conference by three committee members expressed anger and frustration, calling for discipline against the officers and saying they didn’t learn anything new from the report.

“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They’ve got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of one of the victims, told the Associated Press.

“They should be charged for not going in and for letting that happen to our kids,” Evadulia Orta, whose son was killed, told the Texas Tribune.

A false narrative was pushed by authorities

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a press conference in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, the day after the massacre at Robb Elementary. Sen. Ted Cruz stands in the background at right.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a press conference in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, the day after the massacre at Robb Elementary. Sen. Ted Cruz stands in the background at right. (Photo by Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images)

The official story about the shooting began to unravel shortly after the tragedy, as it became clear that law enforcement had botched the response, waiting for more than an hour while the shooter was in a second grade classroom. Responding officers were initially praised for their work, including by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, before officials admitted that a school resource officer who they said engaged the gunman never existed, and a barricaded classroom door supposedly preventing them from engaging hadn’t even been locked. Three days after the shooting, officials conceded that law enforcement had stood in the hallway outside the classroom while students inside called 911 begging them for help.

The report said that the initial statements “repeated a false narrative that the entire incident lasted as little as forty minutes thanks to officers who rapidly devised a plan, stacked up, and neutralized the attacker. The general sentiments shared that day were that law enforcement responders were courageous in keeping the attacker pinned down while children were evacuated.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, parents spoke to the media about how they were threatened and detained outside the school when they tried to get in to rescue their children and confront the gunman. Angeli Rose Gomez, one of the mothers who was detained outside the school by police before persuading them to release her and run into the school to retrieve her children, has said that law enforcement has been harassing her for speaking out about their failure to act.

“A complete and thorough investigation can take months or even years to confirm every detail, especially when this many law enforcement officers are involved,” read the report. “However, one would expect law enforcement during a briefing would be very careful to state what facts are verifiable, and which ones are not.”

The report said that Abbott and other officials who weren’t on the scene were delivering “secondhand” information from those who were at the school, and that a Uvalde police lieutenant who was supposed to speak at a press briefing the day after the shooting “literally passed out while waiting in the hallway beforehand.”

The report also noted that while officials had initially blamed a teacher for leaving an exterior door open, that teacher had actually slammed the door shut and called 911 when she saw the shooter approaching, although the door did not lock. The committee also criticized the media for repeating the “communication failures of relevant authorities.”

Police failed to follow active-shooter protocols

Police deploy in a hallway at Robb Elementary on May 24.
Police deploy in a hallway at Robb Elementary on May 24. (City of Uvalde Police Department/Handout via Reuters)

The report noted that in the wake of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, law enforcement training has emphasized that all officers “must now acknowledge that stopping the killing of innocent lives is the highest priority in active-shooter response, and all officers must be willing to risk their lives without hesitation.” However, the responders at Robb Elementary School “failed to adhere to their active-shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety."

This was in line with the criticism leveled by a senior government official who conducts school active-shooter training who told Yahoo News in May that the responding officers broke every protocol put in place in the two decades since Columbine.

“What they did was pre-Columbine protocol. After Columbine, all this changed — active shooters, you go in, the first guy goes in and neutralizes the threat,” the official said. “They broke every rule in the book. They did everything wrong.”

“Nineteen cops … didn’t breach the door, they waited for [Customs and Border Protection]. Shoot the door, just shoot the door,” the official added. “I don’t know why they waited, they could have gone outside of [the] building and fired into the glass. Saying, ‘Sorry, it’s a bad call’ — well, it’s a bad call with 21 people dead.”

The school's safety protocols failed too

The memorial outside Robb Elementary School is seen on July 13.
The memorial outside Robb Elementary School is seen on July 13. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters)

The doors to classrooms at Robb Elementary were supposed to be locked during school hours. But multiple witnesses told House investigators that doors were often left unlocked, and teachers would use rocks, door stops, wedges and magnets to prop them open, in part because of a "shortage" of keys at the school.

The door to Room 111, one of the two adjoining classrooms where the shooting took place, was reported by a teacher in March to not always lock. But the head custodian testified he had never heard of any problems with that door, and maintenance records during the school year do not contain any work orders for it.

The Uvalde school district used an alert system that allowed anyone in the event of an active shooter to initiate a lockdown, but the committee found that the staff at Robb Elementary did not always receive the alerts due in part to poor Wi-Fi and cellphone service. And employees often "had to log in on a computer to receive" the message.

One of the survivors, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, said her teacher received an email alert about an active shooter. When the teacher went to the door, Miah said, the gunman was in the hallway.

The report also found that school personnel didn’t always respond to alerts with a sense of urgency because the vast majority of them were issued by police during pursuits of vehicles with undocumented immigrants on highways near the school. Reports of so-called bailouts — incidents in which officers chase a vehicle containing suspected undocumented migrants who then purposely crash and scatter to avoid apprehension — were frequent. Since late February, there had been 47 “secure” or “lockdown” events at Uvalde schools, according to the report. About 90% of them were attributed to bailouts.

The gunman was nicknamed 'School Shooter' online

A woman carries a
A woman carries a "Uvalde Strong" flag near Robb Elementary on July 10. (Eric Gay/AP)

The report intentionally does not include the name of the gunman, who the committee said was driven in part by "notoriety and fame." But it does provide some new details about his background, education and childhood — as well as an increasing interest in violent imagery.

The attacker was born in Fargo, S.D., the second child born to his mother, a Uvalde resident, and her then-boyfriend. The couple split shortly after his birth, and he returned with his mother to Uvalde. "The father had limited and inconsistent involvement" in his life, the report stated. The mother's relationship with her children became strained, it said.

According to the report, the FBI interviewed a former girlfriend of the attacker who believed one of his mother's boyfriends sexually assaulted him at an early age, and that his mother didn’t believe him. Months before the massacre, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at his mother's home after she had a "blowout argument" with her son. No arrests were made, and he ultimately moved in with his grandmother.

School records indicate that he struggled academically, having completed only the ninth grade by the time he was 17. On Oct. 28, 2021, Uvalde High School involuntarily withdrew him. But "bad memories" of his fourth grade year at Robb Elementary School lingered, according to the report. Family members recall other students bullied him that year "over his stutter, clothing, and short haircut."

​In the weeks before the rampage, he "began to demonstrate interest in gore and violent sex, watching and sometimes sharing gruesome videos and images of suicides, beheadings, accidents, and the like," the report states. He also played online video games and "became enraged when he lost," threatening others, especially female players, whom "he would terrorize with graphic depictions of violence and rape."

The gunman also "developed a fascination with school shootings, of which he made no secret," according to the report. His behavior earned him the nickname "School Shooter" among fellow gamers and even among people he knew in a local chat group.

None of the threats were ever reported to law enforcement.

Meanwhile, living at home, the attacker "had no real expenses and hoarded money, telling acquaintances that he was 'saving for something big' and that they would all see him in the news someday," the report stated.

On April 2, the shooter sent someone a direct message on Instagram: “Are you still gonna remember me in 50 something days?” The person responded, “probably not.”

“Hmm alright we’ll see in may,” he replied.

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