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Texas legislative panel releases a scathing report on the Uvalde shooting

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Why did it take close to 400 officers so long to confront one gunman?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Texas lawmakers ordered an investigation of the mass shooting in Uvalde. They found a series of failures and poor decision making. Above all, nobody made the decision to move in quickly with the enormous firepower that was on the scene.

INSKEEP: Texas Public Radio's Dan Katz is covering this story. Good morning.

DAN KATZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How, if at all, does this legislative report change your understanding of what happened?

KATZ: Well, in many ways it doesn't. But the first thing is this slow response was a failure of law enforcement at all levels. And this goes beyond the local school police chief, Pete Arredondo, who state officials have tried to place the blame on.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

KATZ: In fact, he only had five officers on the scene. You know, compare that to 150 Border Patrol agents, 91 state troopers, 25 city police officers and 16 sheriff's deputies.

INSKEEP: It's kind of sickening to look at the video now and realize how many people with how many weapons were on the scene and not using them, but who was in charge of all of those officers?

KATZ: Unfortunately, we still don't have an answer to that. The report outlined what it called, quote, "systemic failures and egregious decision making" among local, state and federal officers. But it reiterates that many of the officers were unsure of who was in charge. Right now Arredondo is on administrative leave. And right after the release of this report, Uvalde's Mayor Don McLaughlin put Mariano Pargas on leave. He was the acting city police chief during the shooting. The mayor said the city is conducting an internal investigation on whether Pargas could have done more or whether that was even possible with all the different agencies involved.

INSKEEP: I guess the mayor also released his own city officer's body cam video. What does that show?

KATZ: Yes. It was a more personal view of the response than what was also made public in 77 minutes of hallway surveillance. The body cam footage shows some officers urging action, some even breaking windows and helping children out of the school heroically. But it also shows confusion and a lack of leadership. The mayor released the body cam footage at a time when he, himself, has faced criticism. And he lashed out yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DON MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think I enjoy this every day? Do you think I enjoy having to look at 19 families every day or talk to them and tell them? - because my heart's broken for them. But I'll never feel the pain that they're feeling. So, you know, if people don't have the trust me or don't care, then fine. Let me know. I'll be happy to step aside.

INSKEEP: One of many officials facing criticism and questions here - does the school get criticism?

KATZ: Yeah. One thing is the - in this report is that Robb Elementary School was unprepared to deal with this shooting. All three exterior doors of the building were unlocked that day, as were multiple interior doors. Another example - the school's five-foot fence was inadequate to stop an intruder. And we also learned that the gunman specifically targeted this particular classroom. He was once a student there. And the report said he was bullied in that fourth-grade classroom. State Representative Joe Moody, who helped write the committee's report, said people missed many warning signs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE MOODY: He came from a broken home, with little to no interaction with his father. He struggled in school, both academically and socially. He struggled to fit in and eventually became isolated. He networked with his peers through social media and violent video games and ultimately had a fixation on school shootings and even developed the nickname School Shooter.

INSKEEP: OK. So we learned something about the shooter there. Let's talk about the response, though. If police had been more immediate in going into the classroom, could they have saved lives?

KATZ: Well, according to the report, probably not. The gunman had a high-powered weapon. While the legislative committee did not mention the easy availability of high-powered firearms in its report, it did point out that he fired more than 100 rounds in 3 minutes before authorities ever arrived on scene. And it was likely that most of the victims died immediately during the shooter's initial gunfire - little solace to family members, who are still angry and just want answers.

INSKEEP: That's Texas Public Radio's Dan Katz. Dan, thanks so much.

KATZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Dan Katz