Austin/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 22, 2024
Uvalde Families Sue Texas DPS, 92 Officers Over School Shooting Response, City Forks Out $2M in SettlementSource: Unsplash / Michael Fortsch

Nineteen families in Uvalde continue to seek justice nearly two years after a harrowing school shooting incident. As reported by The Austin American Statesman, they have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety and 92 officers over what they describe as a deeply flawed law enforcement response. In what was a 77-minute wait before officers confronted the gunman, 19 children, and two teachers lost their lives at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022.

According to a report by The Texas Tribune, Veronica Luevanos, who lost her daughter and nephew in the massacre, said, “Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom.” The lawsuit also targets Mandy Gutierrez, the principal at the time, and Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the school district police chief, for their alleged inaction during the crisis.

On a related front, an announcement was made Wednesday about a settlement that sees the city of Uvalde paying $2 million to the victims' families. This settlement includes stipulations intended to curb future tragedies which involves training enhancements for police officers and establishing May 24 as a day of remembrance, as well as creating a permanent memorial. “For two long years, we have languished in pain and without any accountability from the law enforcement agencies and officers who allowed our families to be destroyed that day. This settlement reflects a first good faith effort, particularly by the City of Uvalde, to begin rebuilding trust in the systems that failed to protect us” stated Luevanos.

The U.S. Justice Department's probe into the incident concluded that additional deaths likely resulted from the police delay, citing failure in leadership and training as factors in the ineffectiveness of the police response. In an exploration of various law enforcement failures, investigators found that while a sizeable force comprised of local, state, and federal agents converged at the scene, there was no cohesive command or clear communication. Despite having received active shooter training, the assembly of 376 officers, including U.S. Border Patrol and Uvalde police, treated the shooter as a barricaded subject instead of an active threat, contradictory to their training which mandates immediate engagement in the event of casualties.

According to the Texas Tribune, the lawsuit and settlements arrived as a Texas House committee disclosed that "systemic failures and egregious poor decision making" plagued nearly every facet of the response. A comprehensive 77-page report from the committee revealed disorganization among the 376 officers at the scene. In spite of the controversy following the events, DPS continues to resist the release of records related to its investigation into the shooting. Meanwhile, a Uvalde County grand jury is considering potential criminal charges against various responding officers.