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A new report blames all levels of law enforcement for a systemic failure in Uvalde

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A damning new report into the school shooting at Uvalde, Texas, released earlier today said that nearly 400 officers responded to the shooting at Robb Elementary. But a series of what investigators called, quote, "systemic failures and egregious poor decision-making," unquote, led to confusion, poor communication and ultimately an inadequate response among the local, state and federal officers on scene. That led to police waiting more than an hour to confront the gunman. Twenty-one people died in May, including 19 students and two teachers.

Texas Public Radio's Jerry Clayton is here with us to tell us more about the report, which was led by a bipartisan committee of the Texas House of Representatives. Jerry, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

JERRY CLAYTON, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So the official story about what happened seems to have changed a number of times, which has been confusing and, frankly, infuriating to the families. So what are some of the things that stood out to you from this report?

CLAYTON: Well, we know that the official narrative about what happened has changed so many times. The gunman entered the school - we know that - and fired more than 100 rounds into a pair of adjoining classrooms. It took the officers 77 minutes after those first shots before they burst in and killed the 18-year-old gunman. The report is spreading the blame for the botched response across many different agencies, including the tiny school district police force and its chief, the local police department and also state and federal law enforcement. There were nearly 400 officers who ultimately responded, as you mentioned, including 150 Border Patrol agents and almost 100 officers from the state department of public safety. No one seemed to know who was in charge, and ultimately no one took charge to lead a coordinated and cohesive response.

MARTIN: Yeah. This is a very comprehensive and detailed report. It's almost, you know, too much to take in at one point. But what are some of the other takeaways from the investigation?

CLAYTON: Well, the report was very blunt in its findings. Here's a line - and I'm quoting - "law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety." But it's more than just law enforcement. Some of the blame falls to Robb Elementary and that administrators didn't adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder on campus. For instance, the school's 5-foot-tall exterior fence was inadequate to meaningfully impede any intruder.

And it also said school personnel frequently propped doors open and deliberately circumvented locks. Sometimes, doors were even left unlocked, and it was known that one of the classrooms that the gunman entered had a faulty lock. Investigators also found the shooter was communicating on various social media platforms in the days and weeks before those shootings, sharing pictures of his weapons and giving ominous warnings, yet no one flagged that.

MARTIN: So there are some new details about the gunman and why he chose that classroom. What can you tell us about that?

CLAYTON: Yes. The gunman previously attended Robb Elementary, and his fourth grade year was significant to him. The shooting took place in his former fourth grade classroom, and the report said he'd discussed bad memories of fourth grade with an acquaintance just weeks beforehand. His teacher at the time also testified to the state committee that he complained of being bullied in the fourth grade. And we've also learned that the gunman had a falling out with his mother earlier this year. A blowout argument between them was livestreamed on Instagram, and several members of their family viewed it. Although sheriff's deputies responded to a call, they didn't make any arrest, and soon after, the attacker left and moved in with his grandmother.

MARTIN: So we only have a couple of seconds left. There's an awful lot to digest here, but what are you able to tell us about the reaction from people in the community about this so far?

CLAYTON: Well, they're just starting to digest what's in the report. But in its final conclusion, it pointed out that the attacker fired more than 100 rounds in three minutes before authorities ever arrived on the scene.

MARTIN: That was Texas Public Radio's Jerry Clayton. Jerry, thank you so much.

CLAYTON: Thanks for having me. Any time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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