A report by lawmakers from the state of Texas, in the US, pointed out that systemic failures of dozens of authorities and the lack of proper leadership of the local police contributed to the high death toll of the attack on a school in Uvalde in late May.
At the time, an 18-year-old man killed 21 people at the scene, 19 of whom were children. Police admitted they were wrong to wait more than an hour for reinforcements before storming into the room where the crime took place, and the US government promised a full review of actions that day.
In the 77-page document published this Sunday (17), lawmakers say they found a series of misguided decision-making. “The leadership vacuum may have contributed to the loss of life as the assailant continued to fire while injured people waited over an hour for help,” an excerpt reads.
Following the disclosure, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced that the acting chief of police during the shooting, Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, has been removed from office and placed on administrative leave while the city organizes its own investigation into the incident.
State Representative Dustin Burrows, a Republican who chaired the committee responsible for the report, said it would be up to public agencies to hold the officials involved accountable. The purpose of the document, he said, was only to provide information to the victims’ relatives and the general public.
“Several police officers who were in the hallway or in the school building that day knew — or should have known — that there was a crime taking place there and that they should have done more, acted urgently.”
The material describes, among other things, that police officers waited outside even when a high-ranking official learned that a teacher was injured and that one of the children was calling emergency services from inside the classroom. None of the agents who learned of these factors advocated a quicker response.
The police also failed to call the school’s director, who had a master key to the institution’s rooms. They even tested a tool made to break down doors, but discarded the possibility as they considered it dangerous for agents.
Nearly 400 agents were on the scene, but the decision to confront the gunman was made by a small group of officers, some from the Border Patrol — Texas borders Mexico.
The report intensifies public criticism of the response by Uvalde’s agents, which had already grown up last week when the Austin American-Statesman released a video showing the police delay in responding to the attack. The footage records 1 hour and 17 minutes from the shooter’s arrival until he is confronted and killed.
The video was expected to be made available to the public along with this Sunday’s report, and the disclosure by the vehicle was the target of criticism from family members of the victims, who saw the action as disrespectful.
“We were taken by surprise,” Angel Garza, whose daughter, Amerie, 10, was killed in the attack, told CNN. “Who do they think they are to spread images of our children, who cannot even speak for themselves, in their final moments, to the whole world?” he asked.