Uvalde school shooting: Key takeaways from DOJ’s report on the police response

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The Justice Department on Thursday released its 600-page report on the response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — one of the deadliest in U.S. history. Nineteen children and two teachers died in the massacre at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022.

During a press conference after its release, Attorney General Merrick Garland said of the victims, whose families he met with on Wednesday, "Their loved ones deserved better."

Garland called law enforcement’s response to the scene a "failure that should not have happened,” and reiterated many of the things that had been mishandled by officials that have previously been made public.

Here are the key takeaways from the Justice Department’s report.

Treating the situation as a 'barricaded subject' was the key failure

The attorney general pointed out that the “most significant failure” was that when responders arrived, they changed their tactic from treating the scene as an “active shooter situation” to treating the shooter as a “barricaded subject,” negotiating with the suspect, instead of charging into the classroom.

“It meant that officials asked for and waited for additional responders and equipment instead of following generally accepted active shooter practice and moving toward the shooter with the resources they had,” Garland stated.

Artist Abel Ortiz, left, gives Attorney General Merrick Garland, right, a tour of murals of shooting victims on Wednesday, Jan. 17, in Uvalde, Texas.
Artist Abel Ortiz, left, gives Attorney General Merrick Garland, right, a tour of murals of shooting victims on Wednesday, Jan. 17, in Uvalde, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)

“It meant waiting for a set of keys to open the classroom door, which the report concludes was likely unlocked anyway. And it meant that the victims remained trapped with a shooter,” continued Garland.

Law enforcement officers showed a ‘lack of urgency,' which could have stopped the shooting sooner

The report revealed how the hundreds of law enforcement officials who responded to the scene “demonstrated no urgency” and failed to treat the shooting as an “active shooter situation.”

Garland emphasized the prolonged amount of time it took — 77 minutes — from when the 18-year-old shooter armed with an AR-15-style rifle walked into Robb Elementary School until he was killed.

“Every second counts and the priority of law enforcement must be to immediately enter the room and stop the shooter with whatever weapons and tools officers have with them,” Garland said.

‘Failure' of leadership

Anguished parents arrived at the chaotic scene on the day of the shooting demanding answers and for police on the scene to take action.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta described the chaotic scene saying children with bullet wounds were put on buses without treatment and said that a victim died on the sidewalk.

Garland said during his press conference that law enforcement officers themselves were waiting for leadership decisions on what to do.

“Many officers reported that they did not know who, if anyone, was in charge, what they should do, or the status of the incident,” Garland said. “Some officers were confused about why there was no attempt to confront the active shooter and rescue the children. Some officers believe the subject had already been killed.”

Garland also said that some family members were told that their family members had survived when they had not.

Two Department of Public Safety officers were fired in the aftermath of the shooting.

President Biden provided his own statement Thursday in response to his administration’s review, reinforcing the points of failure by law enforcement and pushing for Congress to pass “commonsense gun safety laws.”

“There were multiple points of failure that hold lessons for the future, and my team will work with the Justice Department and Department of Education to implement policy changes necessary to help communities respond more effectively in the future,” the statement read.