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One Month after Uvalde Shooting, Misinformation Dominates Investigation

Uvalde Shooting

UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 26: People visit memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, in City of Uvalde Town Square on May 26, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School after a man entered the school through an unlocked door and barricaded himself in a classroom where the victims were located. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Posted: June 23, 2022 at 10:27 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 that killed 19 young students and two adults has been plagued by hints of cover-ups, possible criminal investigations, and inconsistent information overshadowing the tragedy.

The initial police report came under scrutiny within a few days of the shooting. Shifting timelines of what occurred, lack of police response, and conflicting statements quickly began to overtake the first reports of the event.

Initially, officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety reported that the gunman was confronted by a school district police officer, then entered the school through a back door that had been propped open. Uvalde Police arrived at the school within four minutes but retreated after shots were fired at them and negotiations failed. It was an hour before the gunman was killed, a delay due in part to police waiting for body armor and other safety equipment.

Within days of the shooting, differing information came to light about the hour-long standoff and the inability of the police to take action. They reported that there was in fact no school police officer on the scene, instead, the officer drove past the gunman in the parking lot. The teacher who had propped open the door publicity stated that she closed the door when she saw the truck crash and the driver with a rifle. Video recordings confirmed her statement, but the door did not lock automatically as it was supposed to. Three police officers entered the building minutes later and were grazed by bullets from the suspect. They retreated and didn’t attempt to enter the classroom again even as reinforcements arrived.

The only consistency from the initial police report surrounds the events leading to the school shooting. Police received a 911 call at 11:20 a.m. that morning from the gunman’s grandmother who was shot in the face. The eighteen-year-old shooter then fled in his truck, crashing in a ditch near the school at 11:28 a.m. He allegedly fired at two passersby before entering the school.

A Lack of Updates from Uvalde Police

A month after the shooting, Uvalde police have ceased to respond to the media as descriptions of what happened that morning has changed. The only indication of any new information has been through testimony at the state legislature.

The school district has similarly remained mum, providing no further insight than what was shared in the first few days. In a statement on June 1, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said they will “reserve comment until all state and federal agencies have completed their review.”

The community’s anger and patience awaiting answers have begun to boil to the surface. At a school board meeting on June 20, Uvalde residents called for the dismissal of Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo, who many believe was in charge on the day of the shooting. The next day Arrendondo’s request for a leave of absence was denied by the city council, then on June 22, he was placed on administrative leave by the school district amidst a lack of details about the investigation.

At the Uvalde city council meeting on June 21, Mayor Don McLaughlin shared his frustration at the lack of information. “It pisses me off that I can’t give you answers or can’t get you answers. I don’t owe allegiance to anybody,” he said. He noted that the number of law enforcement agencies involved and the conflicting information coming from multiple sources “continues to create chaos in our community and keeps the whole truth from coming out and being transparent.”

Pointing Fingers

Sixty law enforcement officers from Border Patrol and Immigration, Customs Enforcement, Uvalde Police Department, Texas Rangers, County Constables, and Texas State Police were all on the scene on May 24, and since that day many of their leaders have been quick to place blame on other agencies.

DPS Director Steve McCraw stated that Arredondo was in charge and made the decision to wait more than an hour to take notable action. McCraw has been critical of Arredondo’s delay in entering the building and engaging with the shooter, calling it the “wrong decision” and an “abject failure.”

Arredondo has since responded that he wasn’t in charge, but was acting as a first responder. He reported that he never instructed police not to enter the building as he called for assistance and tools to obtain access to the classrooms.

McLaughlin was pummeled with comments and questions at the city council meetings but was very clear that official information should be coming only from four public agencies. He directed the public to ask the district attorney and other officials to pursue information and block images of the deceased children from being shared publicly.

Who’s Accountable?

McLaughlin said he invited the Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around the shooting. “I want the truth and these families deserve the truth, and we need to be transparent about what happened that day.’

The DOJ is using Uvalde as an example to help other communities and first responders deal with active shooter situations. The local agencies are also under investigation by the State House in Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice.

They have determined that the situation was plagued by issues beyond the lapse in communication on the scene. Small issues like the police radio system that could not function in the building, an inability to find keys and lack of police protective safety equipment on the scene all contributed.

As the investigations continue, journalists have actively attempted to uncover the truth behind the inconsistencies.

A New York Times investigation revealed that a dozen of the 33 children and three teachers were alive as officers from eight different law enforcement agencies assembled outside. They contend that several of these victims could have been saved if they had received treatment during that hour-long delay before police entered the building.

Journalists from the San Antonio Express-News and Texas Tribune attempted to interview Arredondo on June 1 and 2, and were threatened with arrest. They’ve also been harassed by groups of bikers while attempting to cover funerals of the victims and share the perspective of their loss.

Public records have been blocked by Uvalde city officials using a “dead suspect loophole,” a legal exception that releases them from providing records for a crime in which no one is convicted.

Ultimately, as the circumstances surrounding the actions of May 22 unfold there is little to no possibility that the police will be held accountable for the deaths. The Supreme Court has ruled in prior cases that government agents, such as a publicly-funded police force, are not liable for a failure to protect against the loss of life by private citizens.

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