Texas State Police Launch Internal Review of Uvalde Response

UVALDE, Texas—The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Monday an internal review into the actions of state police who had dozens of troopers and agents on the scene during a slow and chaotic response to the Uvalde elementary school mass shooting.

The review comes as a new 80-page report released over the weekend by the Texas House revealed wide failures by all levels of law enforcement. The findings estimated more than 90 state troopers were at Robb Elementary School during the May 24 tragedy.

It is the first time Texas DPS has said it would examine the actions of its own officers in the two months since the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

Texas DPS said in a statement the review would “determine if any violations of policy, law, or doctrine occurred” during the response to the attack that killed 19 children and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom. It said the review was launched last week.

Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw has previously called the law enforcement response to the shooting an “abject failure.” He has put much of the blame on the school district’s police chief for not breaching the classroom sooner.

Steven C. McCraw
Steven C. McCraw, Director and Colonel of the Texas Department of Public Safety, speaks during a press conference about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 27, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The findings of an investigative committee released Sunday were the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, and not just local authorities in the South Texas city for the bewildering inaction by heavily armed officers as a gunman fired inside two adjoining fourth-grade classrooms.

Footage from city police officers’ body cameras made public hours later only further emphasized the failures.

Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to the school, but “egregiously poor decision making” resulted in more than an hour of chaos before the gunman was finally confronted and killed, according to the report written by an investigative committee from the Texas House of Representatives.

Together, the report and more than three hours of newly released body camera footage from the May 24 tragedy amounted to the fullest account to date of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.

The gunman fired approximately 142 rounds inside the building—and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots came before any officer entered, according to the report, which laid out numerous failures. Among them:

—No one assumed command despite scores of officers being on the scene.

—The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and working master key for a door to the classrooms that may have not even been needed, before entering.

—A Uvalde Police Department officer said he heard about 911 calls that had come from inside the rooms, and that his understanding was the officers on one side of the building knew there were victims trapped inside. Still, no one tried to breach the classroom.

In this still from surveillance video, authorities respond to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. (Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The committee didn’t “receive medical evidence” to show that police storming the classrooms sooner would have saved lives, but it concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue.”

The findings had at least one immediate effect: Lt. Mariano Pargas, a Uvalde Police Department officer who was the city’s acting police chief during the massacre, was placed on administrative leave.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation would be launched to determine whether Pargas should have taken command of the scene. He also disclosed for the first time that some officers had left the force since the shooting but did not provide an exact number, saying it was as many as three.