The actions — or more notably, the omissions — of a police chief and other law enforcement officials quickly passed the spotlight in the investigation of this week’s school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
The delay in confronting the gunman — who was inside the school for more than an hour — could lead to penalties, lawsuits and even criminal charges against police.
The attack that left 19 children and two teachers in a fourth grade classroom was the deadliest school shooting in the country in almost a decade and for three days the police offered a confusing and occasionally contradictory schedule, which caused fury and exasperation in the public. .
By Friday, authorities had acknowledged that students and teachers had repeatedly begged first responders to send help, while Police Chief Pete Arredondo asked more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway at the elementary school. robb. Authorities insist that he believed the shooter was holed up inside adjacent classrooms and that he was no longer a potential threat that he could keep shooting.
Chief Arredondo’s decision — and officers’ apparent willingness to follow his directions against established protocols for similar situations — raised questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not intervene more quickly to stop the gunman, and who should be held accountable. thus.
“In these cases, I think the court of public opinion is much worse than any court of law or administrative trial of a police department,” said Joe Giacalone, a retired New York City police sergeant. “This has been handled so terribly on so many levels that there is going to be a scapegoat somewhere.”
As the shooter fired at the children, members of other law enforcement agencies asked the school police chief to let them inside because the children were in danger, two law enforcement officials said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.
One of the officials said audio recordings at the scene recorded officers from other agencies telling the school’s police chief that the gunman was still active and the priority was to stop him, but it’s not clear why the chief ignored warnings.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who days ago praised police at a news conference for saving lives, later said he had been misled about the initial response and vowed to investigate “exactly who knew what, when, who was charge” and what they did.
“In conclusion: Why didn’t they choose the strategy that would have been the best to go in, neutralize the killer and rescue the children?” Abbott asked.
It is rare for criminal charges to be brought against law enforcement officers in school shootings. One exception was the case of a former school police officer accused of hiding during the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.
Possible administrative penalties—imposed by the police department—could range from suspension and pay withholding to forced resignation, retirement, or dismissal.