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Uvalde police had three chances to engage shooter before taking action, according to new assessment

Law enforcement waited for nearly an hour and 15 minutes before assaulting the Uvalde shooter's position. A new assessment said that shouldn't have happened.

TEXAS, USA — On May 24, 2022, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was assaulted after the gunman crashed his vehicle less than 200 yards from the school. The attack left two teachers and 19 students dead and 17 more individuals injured. 

A new report shows that law enforcement could have engaged the shooter multiple times before that shooter was killed. 

Following that shooting, the Texas Department of Public Safety contracted the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center, based at Texas State University, to assess the law enforcement response. The ALERRT Center states in its report it is a nationally recognized active shooter/attack response training provider in the nation. More than over 140,000 law enforcement have trained in the program across the United States. 

The report details some security weaknesses at the school campus. The door that the shooter entered should have been locked, according to security protocols. The report also found that the interior door to classroom 111 should have been able to lock as well. The report states, however, that the exterior door was not bulletproof and the shooter could have entered in either case:

"..we note that the door was a steel frame with a large glass inlay. This glass was not ballistic glass, nor was there film on the glass to maintain the integrity of the door if the suspect shot the glass. This suggests that the suspect would have been able to gain access to the building even if the door was locked," states the report. 

The report also suggested the interior door to 111 could have been damaged and states," We received information from the investigating officer that the lock on room 111 had been reported as damaged multiple times; however, this has not been confirmed through work orders at this time."

Regardless of those deficiencies, the report explains multiple situations where the law enforcement could have, or should have, engaged the shooter.

1. Law enforcement could have engaged the shooter before he entered the building. 

According to the report, a Uvalde Police Officer located at the site of the suspect's crashed vehicle did, in fact, see the suspect before he entered the school at 11:30 a.m. The officer was 148 yards away from the suspect, but was also carrying an AR-15 which the report states is effective at that range. 

The report states, "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 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 at 11:33:00."

The report then states that the officer did not need to ask permission to take that shot. It stated the shooter was already firing into the school from outside and the officer had the legal authority to engage:

"The officer was justified in using deadly force to stop the attacker. Texas Penal Code § 9.32, DEADLY FORCE IN DEFENSE OF PERSON states, an individual is justified in using deadly force when the individual reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the commission of murder (amongst other crimes). In this instance, the UPD officer would have heard gunshots and/or reports of gunshots and observed an individual approaching the school building armed with a rifle," states the report. 

At the same time, the report also stated that officers were not required to train to shoot more than 100 yards and the officer should not have fired if they believed they could not hit the target. 

2. Law enforcement could have attacked the shooter minutes after he entered the school. 

The timeline in the report states the shooter entered the school at 11:33:00 and entered room 111 less than a minute afterward. It states the shooter "continues to fire what is estimated to be over 100 rounds by 11:36:04 (according to audio analysis)." and then states "During the shooting, the sounds of children screaming, and crying, could be heard."

The report states three Uvalde Police Department (UPD) officers entered the building via the west door (the same door as the shooter) at 11:35:55. This was the same time the shots were just ending. It states the officers were equipped with the following; "one (officer) with external armor and two with concealable body armor, two rifles, and three pistols."

Within the next 30 seconds, four more officers entered the south doorway to that building, and three more from the west. 

The report states, "At 11:36:04, the last shots from the initial barrage from the suspect were fired. There were seven officers in the west hallway and four officers in the south hallway." It states that none of the officers had "breaching tools".

The report then says officers on both ends of the hallway converged on room 111. It says, " As the officers entered the threshold of rooms 111 and 112, they were fired upon by the suspect, who was in room 111. The gunfire at 11:37:00 and 11:37:10 drove the officers away from the threshold of room 111 and 112 and back to the west and south hallways prior to either team making contact with either room 111 or 112 classroom doors. (ISS)"

It states the suspect then fired another 11 rounds after the officers retreated.

ALERRT is very clear that, despite the likely danger of injury or death, the officers should either not have retreated, or should have developed a strategy to re-engage afterwards:

"ALERRT teaches that first responders’ main priority in an active shooter situation is to first Stop the Killing and then Stop the Dying (ALERRT & FBI, 2020, pp. 2-9, 2-15 to 2-16). Inherent in both stopping the killing and dying is the priority of life scale (ALERRT & FBI, 2020, pp. 2-6 & 2-34). At the top of this scale, the first priority is to preserve the lives of victims/potential victims. Second, is the safety of the officers, and last is the suspect. This ordering means that we expect officers to assume risk to save innocent lives. Responding to an active shooter is a dangerous task (Blair & Duron, 2022). There is a chance that officers will be shot, injured, or even killed while responding. This is something that every officer should be acutely aware of when they become a law enforcement officer."

The report then outlines four different tactics the officers could have used to attack the room after retreating, and states the officers should have re-engaged: 

"While it would have taken a few minutes to coordinate and execute any of these actions once the officers retreated from the rooms, taking 2, 3, 5 or even 10 minutes to do so would have been preferable to the more than an hour it took to ultimately assault the room," the report states. 

3. Law enforcement should have engaged the shooter after hearing additional shots. 

The report states, as of 11:38:37, the situation had become "stagnate" and police on the scene began to treat it as a hostage/barricade situation rather than an active shooter event.Officers and other law enforcement held this position for one hour, eleven minutes before the shooter was killed, as stated in the report. Even in this situation, ALERRT states law enforcement must make an "action plan" that will go into effect if the shooter resumes firing:

"The UCISD PD Chief did request SWAT/tactical teams. SWAT was called, but it takes time for the operators to arrive on scene. In the meantime, it is imperative that an immediate action plan is created. This plan is used if active violence occurs. It appears that the officers did not create an immediate action plan," the report stated. 

Unfortunately, the shooter did fire again. The report states the shooter fired a shot at 11:40:58, fired a shot at 11:44:00, and fired four shots at 12:21:08. The report states that, upon hearing additional shots, law enforcement should have taken action to save any remaining victims:

"During each of these instances, the situation had gone active, and the immediate action plan should have been triggered because it was reasonable to believe that people were being killed," states the report. 

Instead, law enforcement on scene did not act. According to the report, even after the last four shots were fired, the police chief was still trying to access the best way to get into the room for the next 13 minutes:

"From 12:21:16 until 12:34:38, a continuous conversation takes place in the south hallway, involving UCISD PD Chief Arredondo and a UPD officer discussing tactical options and considerations including snipers, windows, and how to get into the classroom. They also discussed who has the keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead. (BWC)"

An "ad-hoc" team finally assaulted the room at 12:50:03, nearly 30 minutes after the last reported shots were fired. 

Finally, the report stated one UCISD PD officer was escorted away from the building at 11:48:18 after coming in and stating his wife (one of the teachers) had been shot. Law enforcement took more than an hour to take action after this officer was escorted away. 

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