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Poor Uvalde Medical Response Hampered Treatment Of Victims

Bullets had pierced Eva Mireles’s chest as she tried to shield students from a gunman’s semiautomatic rifle. She was conscious when police carried her out of Classroom 112 through a hallway crowded with dead and dying victims. “You’re fine. You’re fine,” said her husband, Uvalde, Tx., school police officer Ruben Ruiz, who had been frantically trying to rescue her since the attack began. Mireles had been losing blood for more than an hour. Officers placed her on the sidewalk just beyond a school exit and started treating her wounds. A medic later told investigators he did not see any ambulances, though video footage showed two parked just past the corner of the building, about 100 feet away. The chaotic scene exemplified the flawed medical response, captured in video footage, investigative documents, interviews and radio traffic, that experts said undermined the chances of survival for some victims of the May 24 massacre, where two teachers and 19 students died. Law enforcement’s well-documented failure to confront the shooter who terrorized the school for 77 minutes was the most serious problem in getting victims timely care. Previously unreleased records, obtained by The Washington Post, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, show that communication lapses and muddled lines of authority among medical responders hampered the medical response. The Texas Rangers, an arm of the state Department of Public Safety, are investigating what went wrong in Uvalde, including whether any victims might have survived if they had received prompt medical care. The district attorney has said she will use that investigation to determine whether to charge anyone with a crime, including law enforcement officers.

Footage from body and dashboard cameras showed that two ambulances were outside the school when officers killed the gunman inside Robb Elementary on May 24. Three victims who emerged from the school with a pulse later died. In the case of two of those victims, critical resources were not available when medics expected they would be, delaying hospital treatment for Mireles, 44, and student Xavier Lopez, 10. Another student, Jacklyn “Jackie” Cazares, 9, likely survived for more than an hour after being shot and was promptly placed in an ambulance after medics finally gained access to her classroom. She died in transport. The disjointed medical response frustrated medics while delaying efforts to get ambulances, air transport and other emergency services to victims. Medical helicopters with critical supplies of blood tried to land at the school, but an unidentified fire department official told them to wait at an airport three miles away. Dozens of parked police vehicles blocked the paths of ambulances trying to reach victims. Six students were taken to a hospital in a school bus with no trained medics on board. Some law enforcement cars were left locked, forcing medics frantically to try various routes to the school. Although helicopters were available, none was used to carry victims directly from the school. In public statements made since May, law enforcement officials have defended their officers’ actions as reasonable under difficult circumstances. It’s difficult to know whether Mireles or anyone else who died that day might have survived their wounds, in part because local officials have refused to release autopsy reports. Footage shows that Mireles was conscious and responsive when she was pulled from the classroom, an indicator that she probably had survivable wounds. “Had medics gotten to her quickly, there’s a good chance she would’ve survived,” said Babak Sarani, director of critical care at George Washington University Hospital.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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