Individual police officers are unlikely to face criminal charges after their failure to take quicker action against the Uvalde, Texas school shooter who killed 19 students and two teachers, Axios reports.
Lt. Mariano Pargas, who was serving as the city's acting police chief on May 24 when the shooter entered Robb Elementary School, was placed on administrative leave on Sunday by Mayor Don McLaughlin after a report was released by the Texas House of Representatives Committee investigating the response to the shooting.
McLaughlin said in a statement that the leave was to allow for an investigation into "what specific actions Lt. Pargas took to establish that command, and whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved and other possible policy violations."
The school district's police chief, Pete Arredondo, also was on the scene, and is seen on video officially released Sunday negotiating with the shooter and apparently unaware of 911 calls from children inside the classroom that people were still alive.
Training in such situations since the Columbine killings in the late 1990s has been to go in immediately and take out the shooter rather than wait for backup. Officers in Uvalde waited for more than an hour until there were nearly 400 backups from multiple state and federal agencies with no one taking a clear command until some of them decided to go in on their own and kill the gunman.
Families of those who died want justice, but Texas law makes it virtually impossible to charge any individuals because of immunity granted to officers, Phillip Lyons, director of the Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University, told Axios. It's also hard to file a civil lawsuit, he added.
"But it will be up to a judge to decide that immunity. After that, it can go to a jury, and juries will do what juries do," Lyons said.
The Texas House committee's report found that "other than the attacker ... it didn't find any 'villains' in the course of its investigation," saying that, "Instead, we found systemic failures and egregious poor decision making."
The report also faulted Arredondo, saying he was supposed to assume command, but "he failed to perform or to transfer to another person the role of incident commander."
Officers are trained to follow orders from the person in command, but it wasn't clear that day who that person was, Timothy Bray, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas, told Axios.
As a result of this incident, police should look at training for such chaotic incidents, Bray said.
"Beyond officer accountability, the system needs to be held accountable," he said. "It's more than an individual officer's decision.
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