Missed opportunities to stop Texas school massacre revealed
There were multiple opportunities to stop the perpetrator of the Uvalde elementary school mass shooting in Texas, a new assessment of the May incident said. The attacker took the lives of 19 students and two teachers on May 24.
The report was released on Wednesday by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University, a program that works with state and federal authorities on finding the best ways to prevent and respond to such incidents. The 26-page document detailed the timeline of the shooting and the actions of law enforcement.
Among other things, ALERRT said a police officer had the opportunity to take a shot at the gunman after he crashed his car outside Robb Elementary School and before he entered it.
The Uvalde PD officer “was armed with a rifle and sighted in to shoot the attacker; however, he asked his supervisor for permission to shoot. The UPD officer did not hear a response and turned to get confirmation from his supervisor,” the report said.
Shooting at the man – who previously fired his weapon at a nearby business and was openly carrying a rifle into the school – would have been justified use of deadly force, the assessment said.
However, the distance between the officer and the target was approximately 148 yards (135 meters). This is within the effective range of an AR-15 type rifle, but outside of the 100-yard range of the patrol rifle qualifications required from Texas police. ALERRT said that the officer in question reported having concerns about missing the gunman and injuring someone inside the school by accident.
“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,” the assessment acknowledged.
The ALERRT report identified six key points at which the loss of life in Uvalde could have been prevented or mitigated, one of them being the missed opportunity to take down the attacker from afar.
Others included not securing the exterior door and the doors of the classrooms, which were all unlocked during the incident, and an instance in which a school police officer responding to the initial shot failed to spot the gunman because he drove his car at high speed.
There were also two issues with how the police first respondents approached the classrooms where the shooter was killing students, the report said. Officers moved towards the doors from opposite sides of the hall, potentially risking hitting each other in crossfire, and fell back instead of breaching when the gunman opened fire on them.
“We expect officers to assume risk to save innocent lives,” the report noted. “There is a chance that officers will be shot, injured, or even killed while responding. This is something that every officer should be acutely aware of when they become a law enforcement officer.”
The police decision to wait for more than an hour before a tactical team led by US Border Patrol finally went in and killed the shooter has been subjected to harsh criticism by many. ALERRT said the apparent lack of effective command during the incident likely impaired the response to the shooting at all stages.
The report was commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was based on a briefing held for select center staff by an investigator, answers given to their verbal questions, and evidence including surveillance footage.
A separate state review of the shooting is being conducted at the request of District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee.