Nearly two months after the May 24 shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — which left 19 children and two teachers dead — an interim report by a committee of the Republican-controlled state legislature has released part of the truth.
Other than the attacker, the committee did not find any “villains” in the course of its investigation. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives," it said.
“Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making. We recognize that the impact of this tragedy is felt most profoundly by the people of Uvalde in ways we cannot fully comprehend,” the report said — a whitewash.
It does not propose how to solve these “systemic failures”.
No police officer or federal law enforcement official has been fired for dereliction of duty. Texas Republican governor Greg Abbott did not attend a single funeral of those murdered in the shooting.
The day after the report was released, outraged residents — who had been fed lies and contradictory self-serving reports by law enforcement in the weeks after the shooting — confronted members of the school board.
A key fact in the report, that had been covered up until then, was that 376 law enforcement officials from local, state and federal departments were at the scene, a startlingly high number. All of them did nothing to apprehend the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, for 77 minutes, including 29 minutes after Ramos fired his last shot.
An unknown number of the wounded died during that time — criminally negligent homicide. Yet the committee report does not make that determination, whitewashing the guilty.
The federal officials who arrived included a reported 150 agents of the Border Patrol. State officials included 91 officers of Operation Lone Star, a paramilitary special force set up by the reactionary governor to counter the “invasion” of refugees and immigrants. There were also state police and county sheriffs.
Timeline of shooting
The Washington Post reviewed videos released by the committee and by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE, a local television station, a week before the committee’s report, along with other videos.
Based on this, the Post issued the following timeline: “Surveillance video from the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral home across the street from the school shows Ramos crashing his car in a ditch at 11.28am, then shooting at people who walk up to the crash site. Ramos subsequently walks across the parking lot while firing more than a dozen gunshots, according to the Post’s count.
“Around the same time, audio of a 911 call from inside the school captures a woman calling for help as Ramos approaches. ‘He’s shooting,’ she says. ‘The kids are running.’ She then screams at students to ‘get into your rooms!’
“Video from the fish-eye camera inside the school shows Ramos entering the building at 11.33am through an unlocked west-side entrance armed with a semiautomatic [AR-15] rifle. He walks unhurriedly down the empty hallway and makes a right.
“A child rounding the corner spots Ramos and then bolts when Ramos opens fire as he walks into one of the two connected classrooms, 21 seconds after entering the school.
“In the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Ramos fires at least 80 rounds, according to The Post’s count, in either Room 111 or Room 112 — two adjoining classrooms. While shooting Ramos steps outside the classrooms briefly and reenters...
“Video from the hallway at 11.36am shows a group of at least seven law enforcement officers entering the school through the same west-side entrance as Ramos.
“According to a timeline from Stephen C McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, 11 officers from the Uvalde Police Department and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District were the first to respond ... The group included Pedro ‘Pete’ Arredondo, then-chief of the school district police.
“McCraw said Arredondo was the incident commander [Arredondo says the opposite].”
Throughout the whole 77 minutes, none of the 376 officers said they were the incident commander, the one responsible for leading how to respond to the shooter.
“The hallway video,” the Post continues, “shows Ramos continuing to shoot in the classrooms as two officers run to the classrooms and crouch outside. Ramos fires at them, and they sprint down the hallway. Both touch their heads and appear to check their hands for blood". The two had grazing head wounds.
In the next four minutes 100 rounds were fired.
“Over the next 20 minutes, at least seven additional rounds are heard as more officers arrive…. At 11.52am a Border Patrol agent arrives with a ballistic shield. Others from the county sheriff’s office and state police arrive.”
In the next minute, emergency medical services are called to a cross street near the school.
“At 11.58am family members stand in a crowd in front of the school, demanding entry and arguing with police. A uniformed officer shoves a man and yells at people to move back…
“From 12.03pm students inside the two classrooms with Ramos begin calling 911 repeatedly, according to McCraw. When the first call is made, there are six armed officers visible in the hallway video.
“At 12.12pm, a girl calls to report multiple people dead inside, McCraw said. While the 911 audio has not been released, an officer heard in the video referencing the call. ‘A child just called,’ he said. ‘They’ve got victims in there’...
“At 12.21pm, 48 minutes after Ramos entered the school, he fires four more shots. Those are the last shots Ramos is believed to have fired, according to authorities. More than a dozen officers, mostly from the Border Patrol, run down the hallway...
“Fourteen minutes later, at 12.35pm, the officers have not entered the classrooms. A voice over the radio instructs them to wait. ‘Stand by, stand by, we’ve got SWAT on the way.’
“A minute later, a student in room 112 called 911 again, according to McCraw. She was ‘told to stay on the line and told to stay quiet’...
“At 12.47pm a sledgehammer is brought into the hallway. A minute later a voice says, ‘everybody heads up'. Two minutes later, officers move in. The door is not locked, according to McCraw… Ramos is fatally shot, according to official accounts. Several officers step back. One with a ballistic shield appears to tumble backward.”
The committee report says all law enforcement present refused to call it an “active shooter” situation, which would have meant that the immediate response of law enforcement would be to confront the shooter and protect the children and teachers above their own lives.
Instead, the report said, they “failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety”.
After Ramos was shot dead, officers removed the surviving children and sent the wounded to the hospital, who had been left in the classrooms for a half hour without medical attention.
Some, including one of the teachers, died on the way to the hospital. “It is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait,” the report said.
The report also points out that “not existing, nor the expanded background checks passed by Congress in response to the shooting” would have stopped Ramos from obtaining the AR-15.
That bipartisan law, much touted by President Joe Biden, is virtually useless.
Texas Republicans repeat their national party’s mantra: “Good guys with guns, stop bad guys with guns.” Except nearly 400 armed officers failed to do so for 77 minutes.
What the report did not say was why all 376 officers failed to carry out their duty. It did not address why law enforcement agencies issued a mass of lies and conflicting self-serving “information” following the shooting.
There was a coverup of the truth. There is only one plausible explanation: racism.
Texas is run by an ultra-right racist, sexist Republican administration. Uvalde, a town of 16,000 people, is closer to the Mexican border than the nearest large city, San Antonio.
Texan, as well as federal, law enforcement is mobilised against any immigrant asylum seeker who manages to cross the border. They use force when necessary.
It is true that this was not a racist shooting of the type when a young white male carries out a mass shooting attack on Black people or Latinos. Ramos was Latino and from Uvalde.
This shooting was similar to when a white shooter opens fire on white victims, as we have seen many times over recent years. In those cases, either the shooter kills himself or the police arrest him.
In this case, it was law enforcement that was racist in its inactions. It is inconceivable that if white children and teachers were the victims, that law enforcement would not act immediately as “active shooter” protocols demand.
A lesson from the horrific Uvalde shooting is that law enforcement are not allies of the oppressed. Significantly, the demands by the families and community has forced the city and state to respond with more of the truth, even if little more will likely be done .
The next mass shooting will happen sooner than later. We can hope that at some point the anger of the public will force the politicians to do more.