Uvalde shooting report finds ‘systemic failures.’ Use it to prevent future attacks
Just when we thought details surrounding the Uvalde shooting couldn’t get worse, they have. Between the nearly 80-page report the Texas House’s investigative committee released and the latest bodycam video Uvalde’s mayor made public, the fullest account we have yet of that fateful day is nothing short of horrific.
The report and video unveil details that piece together the tragic events of May 24, when a gunman killed 21 people, in a way that is more comprehensive, but just as infuriating — if not more so — than before.
Approximately 376 law enforcement officials ultimately converged at the school that day, including nearly 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officials. Yet still, the gunman was not confronted until well over an hour after he arrived at the school and killed 19 students and two teachers.
One of the reasons the gunman was not stopped sooner was that no one really took command, which resulted in “egregiously poor” decision-making among the hundreds of law enforcement personnel there. The report noted their lack of urgency and bravery, too.
The body camera of one of the officers revealed a crucial piece of this puzzle that had been missing until now. The video from Sgt. Daniel Coronado shows him telling dispatch he believes the gunman has barricaded himself inside an office, not a classroom. It’s not clear how he came to this false conclusion but it seems to be part of why officers were not in a rush to break down the door.
Finally, more bodycam footage captures the moment officers learn via 911 dispatch that the gunman is inside the classroom with “a room full of victims.” One of the wounded children had actually called 911 from inside the room. Still, there was no rush to descend on the gunman.
Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde school district police, lacked focus on the bigger picture: saving lives. He obsessively tries to enter the room with a set of keys and for some bizarre reason, he continues to plead with the gunman. Arredondo’s earnest, but wholly misguided, search for proper keys and his willingness to attempt a negotiation with a ruthless killer as children lay dying cost time and lives.
Hindsight is 20/20 but a few family members and friends seemed to be fully aware the shooter was unhealthy and even dangerous. He was angry, a bully, and even had the nickname “school shooter.” He had more than 100 absences each school year beginning in 2018, had only a ninth grade education at age 17, and had fallen out with both his mother and father.
We must figure out how, in the future, information like this that might seem piecemeal to one person, but together could unveil a full picture of potentially dangerous behavior for a juvenile or young adult with no record, can be reported to authorities in a way that’s helpful. As for his firearm purchases, the law only requires reporting the purchase of multiple handguns in a short time to the police. The gunman bought AR-15-style rifles — so they were not reported. The people who sold him his guns even noted his odd dress and behavior. This loophole must be closed.
A new school year begins in Texas soon. Going forward, school districts and lawmakers must ask themselves: How much public money is spent writing disaster plans that aren’t followed? Turns out, Uvalde had one but no one executed it. If we need them, and one would think we do, how can we ensure they are followed in a commonsense manner, knowing real life doesn’t follow black and white emergency plans?
School districts should also strengthen their relationships with police and review together: Who does what in a crisis? If the school has its own police force, how will they coordinate with other police agencies? Perhaps there should be meetings between school boards and city councils — with this report in hand as a litmus test —to review security procedures.
As nauseating as the report and bodycam videos are, we must continue to learn what we can from that day so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.