Uvalde PD Officer Had Shooter in Rifle Sight Before Entering School, University Report Finds

Uvalde Police officers on scene of Robb Elementary School shooting. (Dario Lopez/AP)
Dario Lopez/AP

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University released a report revealing more information about the law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School Shooting. The 24-page document, “Robb Elementary School Attack Response Assessment and Recommendations,” lays blame squarely on local law enforcement with little to no mention of other agencies responding to the scene.

The report released on Wednesday revealed details concerning the timeline of events which led to more than an hour-long delay in ending the shooting. The incident claimed the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers. The shooter was eventually killed by a Border Patrol Agent who was part of an impromptu team of federal, state, and local officers who breached the classroom where the gunman was hiding.

The report makes assessments based on information received from verbal statements by Texas Department of Public Safety investigators, officer-worn body cameras, school surveillance cameras, and radio logs provided during a one-hour meeting with authorities in June.

The 24-page document is not a final investigative report and is less comprehensive than the more substantial 439-page final investigative report completed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. Among other information provided, the report does note three elements that may have impacted the tragic outcome that occurred before the gunman entered the school:

  1. A teacher propped open the exterior door at 11:27:14. ALERRT staff noted rocks (some of which were painted) were placed at most external doors of the building. Based on this observation, it appears that propping doors open is common practice at this school. While the teacher did kick the rock and close the door prior to the suspect making entry, and the propping open of the door did not affect what happened in this situation, circumventing access control procedures can create a situation that results in danger to students. After the teacher closed the door, she did not check to see if the door was locked. Perhaps this was because the door is usually locked. However, on this day the door was not locked, and because it was not locked, the attacker was able to immediately access the building.

  2. One of the first responding officers (UCISD PD) drove through the parking lot on the west side of the building at a high rate of speed. The suspect was in the parking lot at this time, but the officer did not see him. If the officer had driven more slowly or had parked his car at the edge of the school property and approached on foot, he might have seen the suspect and been able to engage him before the suspect entered the building.

  3. A Uvalde PD officer reported that he was at the crash site and observed the suspect carrying a rifle prior to the suspect entering the west hall exterior door. 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 notes, “The officer did comment that he was concerned that if he missed his shot, the rounds could have penetrated the school and injured students.” The report acknowledges, “Ultimately, the decision to use deadly force always lies with the officer who will use the force. If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired,” rendering the revelation moot.

The report makes little mention of the size or rank structure of law enforcement entities responded the shooting. In one timeline entry that lists the law enforcement agencies at the school, no mention is made of any Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol troopers.

This entry in the timeline occurs more than 18 minutes after the shooter entered the school but makes no mention of DPS presence. More than 90 DPS troopers arrived on scene, according to testimony by DPS Director Steve McCraw to a Texas Senate Committee hearing on the shooting incident in June.

The report identified the responding agencies in the timeline, omitting the Texas Department of Public Safety altogether:

By 11:51:20, law enforcement from various agencies (including UPD, UCISD PD, Uvalde Sheriff’s Office (USO), Fire Marshals, Constable Deputies, Southwest Texas Junior College Police Department (SWTJC PD), and the United States Border Patrol (BP) had arrived at the scene and were moving inside and out to evaluate the situation. (ISS, UPD CS, RL)

In a timeline entry less than two minutes later, a single Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent is noted as arriving and receiving instructions:

At 11:53:10, a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) special agent arrived at the perimeter and was advised to man the perimeter. Another officer makes a comment about there being kids still in the building, the DPS special agent advised, “if there is then they just need to go in.

In the report, ALERRT further critiques the local law enforcement response stating, It is also worth noting, the officers had weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been rated to stop rifle rounds), training, and backup. The victims in the classrooms had none of these things.”

This obvious statement of facts closely mirrors comments made by DPS Director Steve McCraw during an interview with the Texas Tribune. In the interview, McCraw proclaimed, The officers had weapons; the children had none, the officers had body armor; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none.”

Rather than issuing findings and precise information typical in most investigative documents, the report uses prose such as for the sake of argument, we will assume, more typical of debate and opinion pieces. According to the report, other aspects of the shooting response will be analyzed and released in later updates to include information regarding the command structure during the incident.

The ALERRT Training Center, according to its website, has received more than $72 million in state and federal grant funding since 2002.

The report comes as tensions continue to mount between local officials and state leaders over who was ultimately responsible for the delay in stopping the shooter. School Police Chief Pete Arredondo has been named as the on-scene commander by state officials in the aftermath of the shooting. Arredondo, who leads the school district’s six-person department, denies assuming that role and instead claims he was acting as a first responder.

Further widening the divide between Uvalde officials and the state, Mayor Don McLaughlin told the CNN he lost faith in state leaders and believes they maybe covering up their role in the shooting response in an interview on Tuesday.

“I’m not confident, one-hundred percent, in DPS because I think it’s a cover-up,” he told CNN.

“McCraw’s covering up for maybe his agencies,” he added. McLaughlin told CNN his goal was just to get the truth out but was skeptical adding, “I lost confidence because the narrative changed from DPS so many times and when we asked questions, we weren’t getting answers.”

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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