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American Opinion: Uvalde was an ‘abject failure,’ but there’s more to the story

Summary: Police officers were inside the elementary school and outside the classroom within minutes of the shooter’s entry, but more than a hour elapsed before an assault team waiting in the hallway with ballistic shields, body armor and rifles entered the classroom and resolved the incident. ... At least, that’s the story as it stands now. However, it is probably just the first chapter, and far from the complete story.

Family members who lost a sibling place flowers outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Family members who lost a sibling place flowers outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)<br/><br/><br/>
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We wish that we had a clear explanation for law enforcement’s tragically slow response to a gunman threatening and then murdering 19 children and two teachers in their elementary school in Uvalde. That, however, requires a greater commitment to transparency.

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For weeks now, we’ve heard the Texas Department of Public Safety, Uvalde city officials and Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo tell different versions of events, which doesn’t give us much faith that they’re on a common path toward the truth. Media requests have been slow-walked on grounds that public disclosure could interfere with investigations by the federal government, the Texas Rangers and a closed-door legislative committee.

With competing narratives abounding, more transparency, not less, is essential. Rightly frustrated, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio whose district includes Uvalde, last week filed a lawsuit accusing the Texas Department of Public Safety of ignoring his inquiries and covering up details about the police response.

The bunker mentality among those who had roles in the response is part of the problem.

At a legislative public hearing on school security and safety, DPS Director Steven McCraw walked through the department’s timeline of events and called the slow response of local police “an abject failure” that violated nationally accepted protocols of active shooter training.

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Immediately, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin accused state authorities of scapegoating local law enforcement and cherry-picking information to obscure DPS’ role in the standoff. “McCraw has continued to, whether you want to call it, lie, leak … mislead or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and rangers from the response,” McLaughlin said at a special City Council meeting. More transparency is needed from DPS, but McLaughlin also needs to come forward if he knows something that DPS isn’t disclosing.

Other troubling inconsistencies must be resolved, too. According to Arredondo, classroom doors were locked and he couldn’t get in. However, McCraw says the doors were unlocked and no keys were needed. Arredondo also says he did not consider himself to be the incident commander at the scene. Other evidence from McCraw seems to indicate that Arredondo was acting in that role during critical moments.

The families of the victims and every Texan deserve better from law enforcement agencies and politicians whose prime responsibility is to serve the public interest, not their own. The common public interest must be to determine how and why so many died when faster action in line with nationally accepted active shooter protocols would have saved lives.

Police officers were inside the elementary school and outside the classroom within minutes of the shooter’s entry, but more than a hour elapsed before an assault team waiting in the hallway with ballistic shields, body armor and rifles entered the classroom and resolved the incident.

At least that’s the story as it stands now. However, it is probably just the first chapter and far from the complete story.

This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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