SAN ANTONIO — A Texas House Committee reviewing the Uvalde school shooting has released an interim report detailing its findings Sunday that includes disturbing new details about the shooter's life before May 24.
The 77-page report touches on three major areas: the shooter's family not recognizing the warning signs, a school district that was not adhering to its safety plan, and a police response that didn't line up with its own active shooter training.
"There were multiple systemic failures," said state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who led the three-member committee's investigation. "Some of the same systems we found here that failed that day are in place across the state and country."
The report says the 18-year-old who killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary had no experience with firearms before his rampage began. He targeted an elementary school with an active shooter policy that had been deemed adequate but that also had a long history of leaving doors propped open.
"It's hard to hear that there were multiple systemic failures, because we want to tell ourselves that systems work. Systems are something that we can and must improve," said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, another committee member. "There's more to do, but this report is a shared platform for us to work from."
The third member of the committee representing the public, former Texas Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman, talked about the "breakdowns of procedure, processes and judgment" that happened that day.
"Accurate facts have to provide the backdrop for any policy changes that come out of this," she said.
The full press conference can be seen below.
"There are other committees in the Texas House and Senate that will look at this report and try to make changes to policy," Burrows said, emphasizing that the report released Sunday was focused on fact-finding.
"Right now, we are going to let the report speak for itself."
Missed warning signs
The report says the gunman, Salvador Ramos, had never fired a weapon before May 24, but was able to stockpile military-style rifles, accessories and ammunition without raising the suspicion of authorities, according to reporting from the Texas Tribune.
A year before the massacre, he was nicknamed "school shooter" on social media due to violent threats he made against other users. The report describes him as a high school dropout and social outcast who was looking for spectacular violence to bring him notoriety and fame, the Tribune reported.
He worked at two fast food jobs and was fired from both. At Whataburger, he harassed a female employee, and at Wendy’s, he would not talk with any co-workers, except one occasion where he attempted to start a conversation about guns, according to the report.
The report says his family was aware that he was trying to obtain weapons in the last months of his life. He turned 18, the legal age to buy guns in Texas, on May 16. Over the course of the next week, he spent more than $3,000 on two AR-15 style rifles from an online retailer, which shipped the weapons to a Uvalde gun shop.
The owner of a gun store remember him and described him as a regular customer with no red flags. The report says there was no attempt by anyone who interacted with the gunman to alert authorities about his troubling behavior.
Law enforcement response
As far as the law enforcement response, the report cites mistakes and lack of leadership and effective communication. In summary, the report concluded that officers failed to prioritize the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.
In interviews, officers at the scene either said they thought Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo was in command or they did not know who was in charge. The scene was described as chaotic.
But Arredondo told The Texas Tribune in June that he did not consider himself the incident commander after he was one of the first officers to arrive inside the school. He said he assumed another officer outside would fill that role, despite the school police department's own policy that would put him in charge.
But, the report says many other officers are to blame. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Steve McCraw said that while Arredondo was technically in charge, confronting an active shooter is more important than deferring to the rightful incident commander.
The report said Border Patrol agents decided they would breach the classroom without seeking permission from Arredondo. That team killed the gunman at 12:51 p.m., ending the standoff.
Despite the collective failure of police to act decisively, the committee uncovered individual instances where officers acted boldly without instruction.
School safety questions
The report says the school had all the systems in place to slow a school intruder, but complacency weakened the safeguards.
Doors were often left unlocked, and teachers would use props to keep open interior and exterior doors.
In March, the teacher in Room 111, through which investigators believe the shooter entered during the massacre, reported to school administrators that his classroom door “was not always locking.” The head custodian testified he never heard of any problems with that door, and maintenance records during the school year do not contain any work orders for it. The teacher, Arnulfo Reyes, was shot twice in the shooting but survived.
The shooter was able to scale the fence and enter through multiple unlocked doors.
Law enforcement did spend precious time to find a key to the classroom door, but it is now believed the door was unlocked the whole time.
Also, the report says Principal Mandy Gutierrez never attempted to communicate the lockdown over the school’s intercom system.
Speaking with families
The release by the Texas House committee also includes a 77-minute hallway video, which KENS 5 and its TEGNA TV partners first published earlier this week, showing officers waiting to confront the gunman.
The families of the Uvalde victims were set to meet privately with a Texas House Committee on Sunday afternoon to hear the results of their investigation.
Led by State Representative Dustin Burrows, the committee will share with them what they've learned as they've looked into the school shooting.
Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose District 19 includes Uvalde, said out of nearly 40 witnesses interviewed for this investigation, half were members of law enforcement.
"There were 360 officers there. They interviewed 20. We saw one body cam. Where are the rest of them?" he asked. "Every one of them waited. For what? In that waiting period, we might have lost three children who bled out."
Many families already watched the video they'll see again Sunday, showing officers waiting in the hallway not taking down the gunman for more than an hour.
Gutierrez is hoping for more video to be released in the coming weeks.
He says seven days after the shooting, he watched body camera footage showing the perspective of the gunman firing at officers.
"You see the construction material going over their heads as they duck down to avoid being hit. That is the awesome and extreme danger that comes with that kind of ammunition and that kind of fire power," Gutierrez said. "Those cops knew that that day and yet they let those children sit in there."
Gutierrez said the Texas Department of Public Safety offered to let him see more video as long as he signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). He says he refused and instead filed a lawsuit against the agency to get records released. Hearings are set for August 4 in Travis County.
"My fear is that by the end of Sunday evening, we will still have a lot of questions left unanswered," he added.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said there are multiple investigations underway surrounding the Robb Elementary shooting. The Texas Rangers, FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are conducting their own investigation. The Uvalde District Attorney's Office is in the middle of their investigation, in addition to the Texas Senate.
Immediately after Sunday's meeting between the Texas House committee and victims' families, the committee will host a news conference to update the public on their findings. That's set for 4 p.m. at the Civic Center in Uvalde. The news conference will be streamed here on KENS5.com.