By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard
Nearly two months after the May 24 shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left nineteen children dead and seventeen wounded, two teachers dead, part of the truth was released in an interim report by a committee of the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Other than the attacker, the committee did not find any “villains” in the course of its investigation. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision-making. We recognize that the impact of this tragedy is felt most profoundly by the people of Uvalde in ways we cannot fully comprehend” the report says — a whitewash. It does not propose how to solve the “systemic failures” either.
The three-person committee was comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat, but not the state senator, Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde. In an interview on Democracy Now after the report was released, Gutierrez took to task the Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Community outrage as cops get off scot free
So far, not a single cop or federal law enforcement official has been fired for a dereliction of duty. Governor Abbott never attended a single funeral in the city of Uvalde.
The day after the report was released outraged residents, who had been fed lies and contradictory self-serving reports by law enforcement in the weeks after the shooting, confronted members of the school board.
One speaker at the board meeting was 18-year-old Jazmine Cazares, whose sister was among the dead. She was quoted on Democracy Now, “What are you guys going to do to make sure I don’t have to watch my friends die? What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to wait 77 minutes, bleeding out on my classroom floor, just like my sister did?”
373 on the scene “law enforcement” officials did nothing
A key fact in the report that had been covered up before was that 376 law enforcement officials, from local, state, and federal departments were at the scene, a startling high number. All of them did nothing to apprehend the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, for 77 minutes, including 29 minutes after Ramos fired his last shot, leaving the wounded without medical aid.
An unknown number of the wounded died during that time — criminally negligent homicide. Yet the committee report doesn’t make that determination, whitewashing the guilty.
The federal officials who arrived included a reported 150 agents of the Border Patrol. State officials included 91 officers of Operation Lone Star, a paramilitary special force set up by the reactionary governor to counter the “invasion” of refugees and immigrants, as if the brutal Border Patrol were not enough. There were also state police, and county sheriffs.
The Washington Post reviewed videos released by the committee and by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE, a local television station, a week before the committee’s report, and other videos. The WP then issued the following timeline, the most conclusive to date:
“Surveillance video from the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral home across the street from the school shows Ramos crashing his car in a ditch at 11:28 a.m., then shooting at people who walk up to the crash site. Ramos subsequently walks across the parking lot while firing more than a dozen gunshots, according to The Post’s count.
“Around the same time, audio of a 911 call from inside the school captures a woman calling for help as Ramos approaches. ‘He’s shooting,’ she says. ‘The kids are running.’ She then screams at students to ‘get into your rooms!’
“Video from the fish-eye camera inside the school shows Ramos entering the building at 11:33 a.m. through an unlocked west-side entrance armed with a semiautomatic [AR-15] rifle. He walks unhurriedly down the empty hallway and makes a right.
“A child rounding the corner spots Ramos and then bolts when Ramos opens fire as he walks into one of the two connected classrooms, 21 seconds after entering the school.
“In the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Ramos fires at least 80 rounds, according to The Post’s account, in either Room 111 or Room 112 — two adjoining classrooms. While shooting Ramos steps outside the classrooms briefly and reenters….
“Video from the hallway at 11:36 a.m. shows a group of at least seven law enforcement officers entering the school through the same west-side entrance as Ramos.
“According to a timeline from Stephen C. McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, 11 officers from the Uvalde Police Department and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District were the first to respond …. The group included Pedro ‘Pete’ Arredondo, then chief of the school district police.
“McCraw said Arredondo was the incident commander [Arredondo says the opposite].”
Throughout the whole 77 minutes, none of the 376 officers says they were the incident commander, the one responsible for leading how to respond to the shooter. None take any responsibility at all.
“The hallway video,” the WP continues, “shows Ramos continuing to shoot in the classrooms as two officers run to the classrooms and crouch outside. Ramos fires at them, and they sprint down the hallway. Both touch their heads and appear to check their hands for blood…. [The two had grazing head wounds.] In the next four minutes 100 rounds were fired. “Over the next 20 minutes, at least seven additional rounds are heard as more officers arrive…. At 11:52 a.m. a Border Patrol agent arrives with a ballistic shield. Others from the county sheriff’s office and state police arrive.” In the next minute emergency medical services are called to a cross street near the school.
“At 11:58 a.m. family members stand in a crowd in front of the school, demanding entry and arguing with police. A uniformed officer shoves a man and yells at people to move back….
“From 12:03 p.m. students inside the two classrooms with Ramos begin calling 911 repeatedly, according to McCraw. When the first call is made, there are six armed officers visible in the hallway video.
“At 12:12 p.m., a girl calls to report multiple people dead inside, McCraw said. While the 911 audio has not been released, an officer heard in the video referencing the call. ‘A child just called,’ he said. ‘They’ve got victims in there.’ ….
“At 12:21 p.m., 48 minutes after Ramos entered the school, he fires four more shots. Those are the last shots Ramos is believed to have fired, according to authorities. More than a dozen officers, mostly from the Border Patrol, run down the hallway
“Fourteen minutes later, at 12:35 p.m., the officers have not entered the classrooms. A voice over the radio instructs them to wait. ‘Stand by, stand by, we’ve got SWAT on the way.’
“A minute later, a student in room 112 called 911 again, according to McCraw. She was ‘told to stay on the line and told to stay quiet.’ ….
“At 12:47 p.m. a sledgehammer is brought into the hallway. A minute later a voice says, ‘everybody heads up.’ Two minutes later, officers move in. The door is not locked, according to McCraw…. Ramos is fatally shot, according to official accounts. Several officers step back. One with a ballistic shield appears to tumble backward.”
Officials reject designating “active shooter” situation
The committee report says all the law enforcement present refused to call it an “active shooter” situation, which would have meant that the immediate response of law enforcement would be to confront the shooter and protect the children and teachers above their own lives.
Instead, the report said, they “failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety.” After Ramos was shot dead officers removed the surviving children, and sent the wounded to the hospital, who had been left in the classrooms for a half hour without medical attention. Some, including one of the teachers, died on the way to the hospital, and “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they not had to wait,” the report said.
The report was also correct to point out that “not existing, nor the expanded background checks passed by Congress in response to the shooting” would have stopped Ramos from obtaining the AR-15. That bipartisan law, much touted by Biden, is virtually useless.
Two month racist cover-up
Why are we learning only now that a whopping 376 officers were involved, or how many agencies at all levels were? There was a two-month cover-up of the truth. There are no serious recommendations in the report. It leaves that to future discussions and proposals. Texas Republicans repeat their national party’s mantra: “Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns”. Except nearly 400 armed officers failed to do so for 77 minutes.
What the report did not say was why all the 376 officers failed to carry out their duty May 24. It did not address why law enforcement agencies issued a mass of lies and conflicting self-serving “information” following the shooting. There was a cover-up of the truth.
There is only one plausible explanation — racism — because the victims were primarily Latino. Texas is run by an ultra-right racist, sexist Republican administration. Uvalde, a town of 16,000 people, is closer to the Mexican border than the nearest large city, San Antonio. Texas, as well as federal law enforcement, is mobilized against any immigrant asylum seekers who manage to cross the border. They use force when necessary.
It is true that this was not a racist shooting of the type we have recently seen when a young white male carries out a mass shooting attack on Black people or Latinos. Ramos was Latino and from Uvalde. This shooting was like when a white shooter opens fire on white victims, as we have seen many over recent years. In those cases, either the shooter kills himself or the police arrest him.
In this case it was law enforcement that was racist in its inactions. It is inconceivable that if white children and teachers were the victims that law enforcement would not act immediately as “active shooter” protocols demand.
A lesson from the horrific Uvalde shooting is that law enforcement is not allies of the oppressed. But more significantly the demands by the families and community has forced the city and state to respond with more of the truth even if little more will likely be done
The socialist alternative as opposed to patchwork solutions
The next mass shootings on the scale of Uvalde will happen sooner than later. Tragically, they have become increasingly routine the U.S. They are a product of a deeply alienating society in crisis, marked not only by systemic racism, racist scapegoating, daily police murders of unarmed Blacks and Latinex, but also replete with mentally deranged individuals whose lives have been twisted and distorted as they find themselves unemployed, poverty stricken, isolated, desperate and/or otherwise severed from constructive participation in society.
There are no patchwork solutions to generalized capitalist crises. Only the conscious construction of an egalitarian, humanistic, inclusive society that aims at the security and full development of all human beings can end the increasing horrors attendant to the capitalist system. These include not only increasing numbers of deeply alienated people, as was the case with the Uvalde murderer, but a degenerate racist and sexist social system that daily fosters endless wars, environmental destruction, mass incarceration, brutality and hate. All these evils are inherent is a system that prioritizes capitalist profit over the fulfillment of human needs. The socialist alternative has never been as evident, and especially so among today’s youth, a majority of whom, according to a stream of recent polls, prefer socialism over capitalism.