As It Happens
A scathing federal report into the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas two years ago found law enforcement agencies and other officials displayed a lack of co-ordination, leadership and urgency.
U.S. Justice Department finds ‘cascading failures’ in law enforcement’s response to shooting
Sheena Goodyear · CBC Radio
· Posted: Jan 18, 2024 6:12 PM EST | Last Updated: January 19
Kimberly Mata-Rubio, left, and husband Felix Rubio, right, join other family members of the Uvalde school shooting victims as they listen to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta share the findings of a U.S. Justice Department report on Thursday. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)
As It Happens6:17Uvalde shooting report vindicates grief-stricken families. But what they really want is action
Kimberly Mata-Rubio wasn’t surprised by the findings of a damning new U.S. Justice Department report into the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
After all, the grieving mother has already seen the security footage that was released last year of more than a dozen officers, heavily armed and wearing body armour, waiting in the hallway of Robb Elementary School for more than an hour while a gunman massacred children and teachers in a Grade 4 classroom.
“It’s vindication. It’s something that we’ve known all along. Law enforcement failed the students and teachers at Robb Elementary,” Mata-Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter Lexi was killed that day, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.
“But now it’s out there for the world to see. And nobody can hide away from it anymore.”
WATCH | Report details ‘cascading’ series of failures:
Police response to Texas school shooting was an ‘unimaginable failure,’ review findsLack of urgency among law enforcement leadership and a ‘cascading’ series of failures left students and teachers trapped with an active shooter for more than an hour during a deadly 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a new review finds.
The federal report follows several local and state investigations into the police response to the May 24, 2022 shooting, all of which identified major shortcomings.
It details what it calls a series of “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training” that led to a “lack of urgency” in taking down the gunman.
“Had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in active shooter situations and gone right after the shooter and stopped him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday at a news conference.
“The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better.”
Mata-Rubio and her 10-year-old daughter Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, better known as Lexi. (Submitted by Kimberly Mata-Rubio)The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was holed up in a set of adjoining classrooms with 33 students and three teachers for 77 minutes before a tactical team went in and killed him.
All the while, shots rang out, and panicked students trapped inside the classroom with the shooter called 911 on their cellphones.
“Help! Help! Help,” one student is quoted as saying in a 911 recording. “I don’t want to die. My teacher is dead,” said another.
The first officers on scene moved to breach the classroom, but after being met with gunfire, law enforcement began approaching the situation as a “barricaded subject scenario,” rather than an active shooting. That “mindset,” the report said, “permeated throughout much of the incident response.”
“An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject,” the report says, with the word “never” emphasized in italics.
Families call for criminal chargesMata-Rubio is still making her way through the 600-page document.
“You want to read through it so you’re aware of everything that went wrong that day. But none of that changes the fact that I can’t have my daughter back,” she said.
“It’s also very difficult to read her last moments and wonder, again: Could she have been saved if more had been done early?”
Instead, she says she wants action. Specifically, she wants the officers who failed to act that day to be fired, and criminally charged.
Artist Abel Ortiz gives Garland and Gupta a tour of murals of the Uvalde shooting victims. (Eric Gay/Reuters)Velma Lisa Duran, whose sister Irma Garcia was one of the teachers killed, agreed.
“A report doesn’t matter when there are no consequences for actions that are so vile and murderous and evil,” Duran said ahead of the report’s release. “What do you want us to do with another report? … Bring it to court.”
Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell has said she’s still considering whether to bring criminal charges.
Asked about the report and the possibility of charges Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “I don’t know that there’s any criminal liability.”
At least five officers have lost their jobs in the wake of the shooting, including two Department of Public Safety officers and the on-site commander, then-school district police chief, Pete Arredondo.
The city of Uvalde said in a statement that it had requested and fully co-operated with the federal investigation and had “already implemented changes in leadership, new personnel, new training, and new equipment.”
Mata-Rubio says she’s frustrated by a lack of action and accountability.
“The sad thing is that nothing has changed. And that’s why this report is developed — to aid in the next mass shooting, to prepare people for the next mass shooting,” she said. “All of this is reactive. We have yet to take a proactive stance and figure out: How do we just end them?”
She ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Uvalde last year, campaigning on a vision of unifying the town in the wake of the tragedy. And she continues to advocate for stronger federal and state gun laws.
“It’s my responsibility to Lexi,” she said. “It’s what I owe her. I want her name to be tied to change.”
The report also includes the names of each of the victims of the Uvalde school shootings, alongside pictures of murals painted in their honour, and “remembrance profiles to capture the spirit of each victim and to amplify their voices, which were silenced.” Here is Lexi’s:
Alexandria (Lexi) Aniyah Rubio, 10, was an athlete who loved her family and school. Lexi was a fierce, intelligent girl who had dreams of earning a softball scholarship, majoring in math, and eventually becoming a lawyer. Lexi enjoyed practicing softball and basketball with her father and would practice on her own while he was at work. She was an impassioned debater who loved fishing with her dad, reciting jokes with her mom to see who would laugh first, baking with her great-grandmother, and hanging out with her five siblings,” it reads. Her siblings fondly remember her love of the “Lexi burger” —a plain and dry McDonald’s cheeseburger topped with fries and chicken nuggets, which McDonald’s released as a special remembrance on her birthday. She had a love of bright colours, which reflected her bright personality inside and out.”
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters. Interview with Kimberly Mata-Rubio produced by Kate Swoger