The Washington Post
The numerous failures in Uvalde
A Texas House committee finds missteps and voids in leadership.
THE REPORT by a special Texas House committee on the police response to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., opens with remembrances of the children and teachers who were killed. The portraits of lost lives — including Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, “a playful girl who put a smile on the faces of everyone around her”; Xavier James Lopez, “lively, energetic, and always eager to dance, especially the cumbia with his grandmother”; and Irma Garcia, “courageous and selfless . . . a 23-year-teacher [who] died protecting her students” — provide gut-wrenching context to the abject failures of systems and individuals that contributed to tragedy.
The 77-page preliminary report released Sunday chronicled, with damning new detail, the missteps, communication breakdowns and void in leadership of law enforcement on all levels — federal, state and local — in responding to the deadly shooting. Nearly 400 heavily armed officers were at the scene, but none took the initiative to challenge the gunman, who killed 19 children and two teachers inside two fourth-grade classrooms at the elementary school. Instead — and contrary to their training — officers prioritized their own safety over the lives of students and teachers. More than an hour passed before the gunman was finally confronted and killed.
The report said it was not clear whether lives could have been saved with a quicker response, but it left open the possibility. Other than the gunman — who pointedly was unnamed in the report — the committee said it did not find any “villains” to whom it could attribute malice or ill motives. “Instead,” the committee wrote, “we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”
The report offered an exhaustive accounting of the police response after weeks of conflicting and misleading reports, but it also cited failures by others. School officials had become complacent about security, neglecting repairs to door locks and not complying with safety policies. The committee uncovered disturbing information about the gunman, who for years had struggled in school but never received meaningful help before he was voluntarily withdrawn for poor academic performance and excessive absences. Friends and acquaintances received messages from him related to guns — even referring to attacking a school — but they never sounded the alarm.
Details about how he purchased the weapons and ammunition used in the attack bring into stark relief the madness of our gun laws. As soon as he turned 18 — a week before the attack — he started amassing his arsenal: two AR-15 style rifles, 60 magazines, more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition. He legally qualified for the purchases, and the multiple gun sales within such a short period of time were reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But the law only requires purchases of handguns to be reported to the local sheriff, so the information remained isolated in federal hands.
It will be up to the various law enforcement agencies to conduct their own investigations and determine whether further action is to be taken. It’s important that the systemic failures be addressed and individuals be held accountable. But it must also be recognized that the best way to help police and educators avoid more Uvaldes is to put in place sensible gun-safety laws that prevent troubled young men from obtaining the means to commit mass murder.