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The inaction of the police is moving to the center of the investigation into the shooting in Uwald


The actions – or, more typically, inaction – of the school district police chief and other law enforcement officers quickly moved to the school’s shocking shooting investigation center this week in Uwald, Texas.

The actions – or, more typically, inaction – of the school district police chief and other law enforcement officers became the focus of an investigation into the shocking shooting at a school this week in Uwalde, Texas.

Delay in confrontation with a shooter who has been at the school for more than an hour can lead to discipline, litigation and even criminal liability against the police.

The attack, which killed 19 children and two fourth-grade teachers, was the deadliest shooting at the school in nearly a decade, and within three days police offered confusing and sometimes contradictory graphics that sparked public anger and frustration.

By Friday, authorities acknowledged that students and teachers had repeatedly asked for help from 911 operators, and the police chief said more than a dozen officers were waiting in the corridor of Rob Elementary School. Officials said he believed the suspect had barricaded himself in nearby classrooms and that there was no more active attack.

The chief’s decision – and the officers’ apparent willingness to comply with his directives against the established active firing protocols – raised questions about whether more lives had been killed because officers had not acted more quickly to stop the gunman and who should be held accountable.

“I think in these cases, the court of public opinion is much worse than any court or administrative process in the police department,” said Joe Giacolone, a retired New York City police sergeant. “It was so awful on many levels that here or there will be a sacrificial lamb.”

When an armed man shot at students, law enforcement officials from other departments urged the school police chief to allow them to enter because the children were in danger, two law enforcement officials said.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to speak publicly about the investigation.

One of the officials said that on audio recordings from the scene, officers from other departments told the school police chief that the shooter was still active and that the priority was to stop him. But why the head of the school ignored their warnings was unclear.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who praised police for saving lives at a news conference earlier this week, said he was misled about the initial response and vowed to investigate “who knew exactly what, when, who was responsible” and that they did.

“The bottom line would be: why didn’t they choose the strategy that would be best to get there, eliminate the killer and save the children?” said Abbott.

Criminal charges against law enforcement officers in school shootings are rare. A notable exception was a former school resource officer accused of hiding during a shooting at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, which killed 17 people. New York defense attorney Paul Martin and Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington Police Research Forum, both said Saturday they were unaware of other officers accused of inaction in the mass shooting.

Martin, who represented police officers accused of murder, assault and other crimes, said he believed what happened in Uwalde was different from Parkland because officers who were waiting to confront the attacker were following orders. Martin said he did not think they could be charged based on the decisions of their command.

As for the school district police chief, who decided to wait, Martin said that prosecuting him would be a “very high bar” because police officers are given the opportunity to make tactical decisions.

“Families can sue the police department for inaction. … Obviously, they can be considered civil liability, ”he said. “I think it is very doubtful that they can be prosecuted.”

With regard to civil liability, a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” that protects police officers from lawsuits if their actions do not violate clearly established laws can also be used in future lawsuits. Potential administrative penalties imposed by the department itself can range from salary waivers or deferrals to forced retirement or retirement or complete termination of employment.

The families of most killed or wounded in Parkland have reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice for $ 127.5 million due to the fact that the FBI did not stop the gunman, even if it received information that he intended to attack. Former Broad County Deputy Shuttle Peterson is due to appear in September on charges of child negligence that resulted in grievous bodily harm, negligent negligence and perjury. He said he did everything he could at the time.

A federal judge dismissed all lawsuits against the school district and the sheriff’s office following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, ruling that gunmen were responsible. In 2002, the teacher’s daughter, who bled to death, reached a $ 1.5 million agreement in her lawsuit against the Jefferson County Sheriff. At the time, police were heavily criticized for not going to school earlier.

“Columbine taught us that if you have active shooters, waiting for extra resources will result in people dying,” Wexler said. “Here we are, 20 years after Columbine, and it’s the same problem that continues to challenge law enforcement.”

He said that each department must clearly state in its policy that in such situations it is necessary to face an armed man immediately.

Uwalde School District Police Chief Pete Aredonda has decided that a group of officers should wait to confront the attacker, believing the active attack is over, according to Stephen McCrow, head of the Texas Department of Homeland Security.

The crisis ended shortly after officers used the janitor’s keys to open the classroom door, entered the room and shot Ramos.

Aredonda could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Uwalde’s officers were stationed at his home, but they did not say why.

Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the police department’s policies, procedures and training would be carefully studied to see if they were carried out by officers on the ground in Uwald.

If they did, and criminal charges were still filed, she said it would send police cooling across the country. “If you follow your procedures, you will still be charged. So what’s the point of having procedures? ” she said.

But Jorge Colin, a former Miami police chief, wants to know more about what was going on in the minds of school officers when the chief told them to wait in the hall.

“Did anyone challenge the decision there?” he said. “Has anyone objected?”


Associated Press Writers Jim Vertuna in Uwalde, Texas; Jake Blaiberg in Dallas; Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Mike Balzamo in Washington, DC; and Jennifer McDermott of Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.


More about shooting at a school in Uwalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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