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'Wrong Decision' by TX School Police Chief at Issue in Massacre Response

The inaction of a school district police chief and other officers is at the center of the investigation into the school massacre in Uvalde, Tx. The delay in confronting the shooter — who was inside the school for more than an hour — could lead to discipline, lawsuits and even criminal charges against police. The attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead in a fourth grade classroom was the deadliest U.S. school shooting in nearly a decade. For three days, police offered a confusing and sometimes contradictory timeline that drew public anger and frustration, the Associated Press reports. Authorities finally acknowledged that students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while the police chief told a dozen officers to wait in a hallway at Robb Elementary School. He believed the suspect was barricaded in adjoining classrooms and there was no longer an active attack. "It was the wrong decision," said Texas public safety director Steven McCraw.

The chief’s decision — and the officers’ willingness to follow his directives against established active-shooter protocols — prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, and who should be held responsible. As the gunman fired at students, officers from other agencies urged the school police chief to let them move in because children were in danger. It wasn’t clear why the school chief ignored their warnings. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier in the week lauded the police for saving lives, said he had been misled. “The bottom line would be: Why did they not choose the strategy that would have been best to get in there and to eliminate the killer and to rescue the children?” Abbott said. Criminal charges are rarely pursued against law enforcement in school shootings. In terms of civil liability, the legal doctrine called “qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from lawsuits unless their actions violate clearly established laws, could also be at play in litigation. Prosecutors will decide whether Arredondo’s decision and the officers’ inaction constituted a tragic mistake or criminal negligence, said law Prof. Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, a former federal prosecutor.


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