Takeaways from Independent Expert Investigative Report on Robb Elementary shooting

UVALDE, Texas – During a special meeting on Thursday, Austin-area investigator Jesse Prado presented his Independent Expert Investigative Report into the Uvalde Police Department’s response to the Robb Elementary shooting on May 24, 2022.

Then-mayor Don McLaughlin announced the investigation in July 2022. The investigation was supposed to take 60 to 90 days to complete. Nineteen months later, it finally is.

The report cost the city more than $100,000.

The council asked Prado, among other things, if there was any specific wrongdoing by any Uvalde police officers. Prado said the department did not commit any wrongdoing or violate any policy in its response to the elementary school.

Instead, Prado placed the blame on communication issues, crowds outside the school and officers not having the correct keys on hand.

The full report can be seen below. Keep reading for the report’s key takeaways.

Prado said he was asked to interview every police officer including three dispatchers who responded to the shooting. He said he was asked to trace their steps and decisions and determine if they violated any policy.

The investigator said Uvalde PD handed him a disc with all their body cam footage when he started investigating, 911 call logs, and everything the UPD had as evidence in the case.

Prado began his investigation in July 2022, when he said he had a lot of difficulty getting information about what the officers did during the response. He said District Attorney Christina Mitchell did not allow him to get copies of information. He said he had to get with the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Border Patrol and used the DOJ’s report to corroborate a timeline.

Prado said he eventually received a timeline from DA that had 5,000 entries and no investigative notes. He said he had to determine what notes were missing.

“There were many failures,” Prado said, referring to the response.

When officers made entry into the school, Prado said there were 28 attempts to get information out to officers, who had no idea what they were facing until they got there. Texas Rangers requested that its officers not write a report in their system, which is uncommon, Prado said.

Rangers were requested not to do interviews, Prado said. He said interviews are not as effective as written reports.

Prado said there was no leader communicating orders at Robb Elementary on the day of the shooting. He said Arredondo was on the south side of the hallway, but many officers were on the north side and there was no communication on what steps to take next.

Uvalde CISD PD management knew about the shooting, Prado said. His report findings showed there were problems all day long with a lack of communications because Arredondo was making phone calls but not radioing to other officers.

Prado said officers stopped before making entry because a BORTAC (Border Patrol’s Tactical Team) commander was not confident they could get in on time with a tool to breach and get into the classroom and requested a key instead.

Breaching delays the time for response, and it was going to take too much time to get in there and stop the shooting, Prado said.

Prado said there was no way officers could know what Arredondo wanted to do because he wasn’t communicating.

Prado said the police department hadn’t practiced breaching since before the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it should be practiced every quarter, at least.

Lack of equipment was also a main problem because officers couldn’t get to the door, Prado said. The shooter could clearly see the hallway before the officers could even get to the door.

Officers could only see through a small window on the door, Prado said. But they had no visibility and couldn’t shoot into the classroom blindly. Officers needed a ballistic shield to at least get to the door. But they didn’t have that.

No wrongdoing from law enforcement, investigator says

Prado said he reviewed active shooter training policy and SWAT policy for his investigation. He said he found no wrongdoing by the officers examined for his investigation and recommended exoneration.

Prado said Lt. Javier Martinez did not violate any policy and there were no indications of wrongdoing in his actions. He said Martinez actively recognized the bullets were going through the walls and was struck by fragments.

Prado said Martinez made the right decision by not shooting into the classroom, violating policy and even the law.

Uvalde Police SWAT Cmdr. Eduardo Canales didn’t violate policy, according to the report. There was no indication of wrongdoing in response to the shooting.

Prado said Canales received injuries to his ear. Canales had a child in the classroom next to Room 111 and maintained levelheadedness and made the right calls, Prado said.

Prado said there was no indication of wrongdoing or violating policy for Sgt. Donald Page, Prado said Page went directly to the shooter’s location, only had a partial view of Room 112 and assisted in evacuating children from other classrooms.

“All his actions were in good faith,” Prado said of Page.

Prado also found Detective Louis Landry did not violate policy and focused enough to listen to Lt. Martinez’s orders. Landry did exactly what he was told, according to Prado.

Prado recommended that Lt. Mariano Pargas, had he remained on the force, should be exonerated. Pargas was acting chief during the shooting. He knew who was going to be in charge when he got to the school and thought Arredondo would be the incident commander, Prado said.

Arredondo was in the hallway by the time Pargas arrived.

Pargas delegated Officer Juan Martinez to start a command post, Prado said. Martinez had been on vacation but went to help.

Pargas knew he had two injured officers, Prado said. One was Martinez who refused to leave but was ordered to get checked because he was injured.

Prado said one of the biggest barriers for setting up barriers was the crowd and said the parents were difficult to control. Families in attendance during the meeting left in a rush, upset after hearing that.

When asked if he was aware of any other solution that would have allowed law enforcement to gain access, Prado said no.

Prado said two months prior to the Robb shooting, there was an active shooter class for instructors. They were all in the hallway, responding at Robb during the shooting. Prado said they were being shot at eight feet away from the door, and it’s possible the shooter was waiting on one side of the room to shoot anyone who would enter.

Recommendations

The independent investigator said any reasonable person would think that the ISD officers would have a key to get into classrooms. He recommended all officers have keys to local classrooms.

Prado said the school district should adopt a policy that doesn’t allow any children to be taught in a classroom that can’t be secured. He suggested other recommendations at this time.

WHAT HAPPENED IN UVALDE ON MAY 24, 2022

On May 24, 2022, 19 students and two teachers had their lives taken at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

Eleven officers from the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District were the first to arrive on the scene that morning after an 18-year-old gunman made his way to classrooms 111 and 112 and began shooting.

Police officers didn’t attempt to open two doors that were connected to the classrooms where a gunman was opening fire on children and teachers for 77 minutes after arriving on the scene.

More than a dozen officers, including then-Uvalde CISD police chief Pete Arredondo, waited for over an hour in the hallway of Robb Elementary School before a small group of Border Patrol agents entered the room and killed the gunman.

Defending his delay in confronting the gunman, Arredondo claimed he was trying dozens of keys to get into the classroom.

According to surveillance video footage cited by ABC News, neither Arredondo nor other officers in the hallway were seen trying to open the door.

Surveillance video also showed the gunman was able to open the door to classroom 111 from the outside.

The classroom doors at the school are supposed to lock automatically, but investigators believe the door had previously been reported as malfunctioning.

A Department of Justice report stated UPD Acting Police Chief Mariano Pargas or then-UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo should have assumed command. Since Arredondo was acting as an initial responder, the report stated that Pargas should have assumed command.

As the shooting continued in the classroom, two officers in the hallway were struck by shrapnel and debris. All of the officers pulled back.

Arredondo, who did not direct entry into the classrooms, called dispatchers and referenced a call from a teacher who said a fellow teacher was wounded.

Officers advanced toward the classroom without any backup, only to retreat each time, according to the DOJ report.

Arredondo treated the situation as a “barricaded subject” rather than an active shooter call, federal officials said. As more officers arrived on the scene, the lack of an incident commander led to the officers’ confusion about what was to happen.

Within eight minutes of the first officers arriving at the scene, at least three phone calls to 911 had been made from inside the school.

Sixteen minutes into the incident, the UCISD officer whose wife was in the classroom received confirmation that she had been shot.

About 30 minutes into the incident, the DOJ report said Arredondo tried to negotiate with the gunman, which led other officers inside the school hallway “to express frustration with the inaction toward penetrating classrooms 111/112.”

A body camera video from an officer on the scene showed Arredondo saying, “We’re waiting for a master key.”

As this is happening, multiple officers were outside breaking windows to classrooms to evacuate children in other classrooms around 111 and 112.

When a group of officers armed with a shield tried to enter a hallway a few minutes later, body-worn camera footage showed Arredondo putting his hand up and telling the officers, “Guys, hold on, we are going to clear the building first . . . empty these classrooms first.”

Around 12:16 p.m., a group of officers advanced into the hallway. At that point, Arredondo told a Department of Public Safety sergeant to “tell them to f***ing wait,” the DOJ report said.

Outside, a minute later, UPD Officer Justin Mendoza runs to grab supplies and is heard saying, “I need to grab my med kit from my bag vehicle. They said there’s multiple victims in the room.”

At 12:21 p.m., four shots were fired inside the classrooms, and a group of officers made their way toward the classroom only to stop.

The DOJ’s report stated it took 29 minutes more before they entered the classroom. The officers scanned the classroom looking for the gunman, who eventually emerged from a closet and opened fire on officers. That is when officers returned fire and killed the gunman 77 minutes after he first entered the school.

The lives lost in Uvalde include the following victims:

  • Eva Mireles (4th grade teacher)
  • Irma Garcia (4th grade teacher)
  • Alithia Ramirez
  • Amerie Jo Garza
  • Xavier Lopez
  • Jose Flores
  • Nevaeh Bravo
  • Ellie Garcia
  • Lexi Rubio
  • Jacklyn Cazares
  • Jailah Nicole Siguero
  • Jayce Luevanos
  • Maranda Mathis
  • Makenna Lee Elrod
  • Layla Salazar
  • Maite Rodriguez
  • Annabell Rodriguez
  • Eliahana Cruz Torres
  • Rojelio Torres
  • Uziyah Garcia

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