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Audit finds police missed chances to stop Uvalde shooter

A top law enforcement training center found issues with both the school and police response that led to a shooter gaining access to a classroom of fourth-graders.

SAN MARCOS, Texas (CN) — A report released Wednesday by the nation’s foremost mass shooting prevention training authority revealed key errors made by law enforcement during the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead.

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, also known as ALERRT, Center at Texas State University has been responsible for training law enforcement across the country on how to respond to mass shootings. Following the Uvalde shooting, ALERRT was asked to review police response by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has been conducting its own investigation into the attack.

The first responders to the shooting include the Uvalde Police Department and members of U.S. Border Control. ALERRT reviewed all factors of the shooting according to its level-one training, a course many officers in Texas receive.

First, examiners looked at how security at the school failed and allowed the shooter, an 18-year-old high school dropout with an AR-15 style rifle, to enter the building. According to the report, a side door was not locked after a teacher stepped out and reentered. 

“On this day the door was not locked, and because it was not locked, the attacker was able to access the building,” the report states. “Even if the teacher had checked to see if the door was locked, it appears that she did not have the proper key or tool to engage the locking mechanism on the door.” 

Shortly before the shooter entered Robb Elementary, a Uvalde school district officer passed him while entering the parking lot at a high rate of speed, leading to his failure to quickly spot the shooter. Moreover, a failure to quickly engage stopped a Uvalde city officer from firing at the shooter.

"The UPD officer was armed with a rifle and sighted in to shoot the attacker; however, he asked his supervisor for permission to shoot," the report states. “The UPD officer did not hear a response and turned to get confirmation from his supervisor. When he turned back to address the suspect, the suspect had already entered the west hall exterior door.”

In this instance, the examiners point out that the officer would have been justified in using deadly force. However, the officer explained that he did not take the shot because he was nearly 150 yards from the shooter and feared he would miss and possibly injure someone inside a classroom.

Once inside the school, the shooter was able to enter classroom 111 despite the school district's requirement that doors be locked at all times. The lock to room 111 was not working and despite being reported several times, nothing was done to fix it. 

Having gained access to the classroom, which had an internal doorway that linked it to a neighboring room. Officers amassed at either end of the hallway with the classroom in between them. At no time did the officers attempt to open the door and engage the shooter.

According to ALERRT training, officers are taught to “stop the killing and then stop the dying,” meaning they are expected to engage with a shooter first to prevent any further loss of life and then tend to the medical needs of victims. Officers failed to act timely despite being adequately equipped to do so, allowing the shooter more time in the classroom with students and teachers, the audit found.

“We commend the officers for quickly entering the building and moving toward the sounds of gunfire. However, when the officers were fired at, momentum was lost,” the report said. "The officers fell back, and it took more than an hour to regain momentum and gain access to critically injured people.”

This factor has become a key criticism of lawmakers and officials at the Department of Public Safety. The agency's director, Steve McCraw, told members of a Texas Senate committee looking into the shooting that the law enforcement response during the shooting “set the profession back decades.”

During a Texas House committee meeting late last month, lawmakers were urged to make changes to police training for officers across the state.

San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge called on the committee to consider requiring more training for Texas peace officers, including the level-one ALERRT training.

The report was compiled through interviews with the responding officers, body camera footage, school security footage and radio logs.

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Categories / Criminal, Education, Government, Regional

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