Uvalde City Council to release investigation of the police response to 2022 school massacre

Mar 6, 2024, 10:13 PM

FILE - Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School, June 9, 2022, in Uval...

FILE - Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School, June 9, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, created to honor the victims killed in the school shooting. Nearly two years after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the city council will discuss Thursday, March 7, 2024, the results of an independent investigation it requested into the response by local police officers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Nearly two years after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the city council will discuss the results of an independent investigation it requested into the response by local police officers.

The report is one of multiple investigations into the deadly school massacre after Texas lawmakers found in 2022 that nearly 400 officers rushed to the scene but waited for over an hour before confronting the gunman. It follows a report by the Department of Justice earlier this year that criticized the “cascading failures” of responding law enforcement personnel from more than 20 local, state and federal agencies.

Uvalde City Council leaders will meet Thursday to discuss the results of the investigation, which began months after the shooting and was led by Jesse Prado, an Austin-based investigator and former police detective. Councilmembers will meet in a private executive session before presenting the results publicly and inviting citizen comment.

A criminal investigation by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell’s office into the law enforcement response to the May 2022 shooting remains open. A grand jury was summoned earlier this year and some law enforcement officials have already been asked to testify.

Tensions remain high between Uvalde city officials and the local prosecutor, while the community of more than 15,000, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio, is plagued with trauma and divided over accountability.

Those tensions peaked in December 2022, when the city of Uvalde sued the local prosecutor’s office seeking access to records and other investigative materials regarding the shooting at Robb Elementary School. That lawsuit is among the topics that the city council could revisit Thursday.

The city’s independent investigation comes after a nearly 600-page January report by the Department of Justice found massive failures by law enforcement, including acting with “no urgency” to establish a command post, assuming the subject was barricaded despite ongoing gunfire, and communicating inaccurate information to grieving families.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the victims “deserved better,” as he presented the Justice Department’s findings to the affected families in Uvalde.

“Had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in active shooter situations and gone right after the shooter and stopped him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived,” Garland said at the news conference in January.

The report also found failings in the aftermath, with untrained hospital staff improperly delivering painful news and officials giving families mixed messages and misinformation about victims and survivors. One official told waiting families that another bus of survivors was coming, but that was untrue.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott initially praised the law enforcement response, saying the reason the shooting was “not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do.” He claimed that officers had run toward gunfire to save lives.

But in the weeks following the shooting, that story changed as information released through media reports and lawmakers’ findings illustrated the botched law enforcement response.

At least five officers who were on the scene have lost their jobs, including two Department of Public Safety officers and the on-site commander, Pete Arredondo, the former school police chief. No officers have faced criminal charges.

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Uvalde City Council to release investigation of the police response to 2022 school massacre