Uvalde shooting victims who were still alive when they were finally removed from the school building were not immediately treated or transported to a facility for the emergency care they needed, records obtained by news outlets show.
The biggest cause for the delay in medical care was the confoundingly slow police response. But a lack of coordination and poor communication between law enforcement and medical staff led to confusion and further delayed critical emergency services to victims that could have potentially saved their lives, according to a report copublished by the Texas Tribune, ProPublica, and the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Nineteen children and two adults died after a shooter opened fire at Robb Elementary School on May 24. But one teacher and two children were still alive when medical staff reached them, the report said, after police finally engaged the assailant, killing him.
Emergency responders carried Eva Mireles, a 44-year-old fourth-grade teacher, outside the school and placed her on the sidewalk as they administered CPR. One Border Patrol medic told investigators that there was no ambulance nearby, even though there were two parked 100 feet away, according to the report.
Ten minutes went by and several more ambulances came and went before Mireles was taken into one of them. Medics intubated her and tried to get her heart pumping, but they did not transport her to a hospital, the report said. They worked on her for another 40 minutes inside the ambulance before she was declared dead.
Records obtained by the Tribune, ProPublica, and the Post show that none of the five medical helicopters that responded to the shooting transported any victims from the classrooms where the shooter opened fire.
Medics treating a boy who fit the description of 10-year-old Xavier Lopez rushed him to a field outside the school building after hearing that people injured were being airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio. After waiting 11 minutes for a helicopter, they decided to drive to the hospital in an ambulance. En route, a state trooper performed CPR on the boy, who had gone into cardiac arrest, while a medic treated his wounds.
The ambulance rerouted to a different hospital, where Xavier was declared dead. A helicopter reached the school eight minutes after the ambulance carrying Xavier left, the report said.
"If the cops had done their job, the medics might’ve had a chance," Xavier's dad, Abel Lopez, told the Tribune.
Jacklyn "Jackie" Cazares, 9, was also still alive when medics reached her in the classroom. The report said she was quickly placed in an ambulance but died on the way to the hospital.
The botched law enforcement response to the shooting has come under heavy scrutiny by families in Uvalde and state and federal officials. It took law enforcement officers more than an hour after the shooting began to confront the assailant. A top Texas official said that officers believed that the people in the classrooms were dead and the shooter was barricaded inside alone, even though children inside were calling 911 at the time, begging police for help.
Security footage obtained by the Austin American-Statesman showed that officers stood in the hallway for 77 minutes before finally engaging the shooter. This waiting period was a major cause of the delay in medical care for victims. Body camera footage published by WOAI showed officers acknowledging the need to engage with the shooter and expressing fears for their own safety. A report from the Texas House investigative committee found that "responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety."
The school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, who was at the scene and was tasked as commanding officer in the district's active shooter plan, said he did not consider himself in charge of the police response. Arredondo was fired in August and the entire school district police department was suspended in October.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have refused to take responsibility for the flawed response to the shooting and have stonewalled families and journalists seeking answers.
“With every news story on Uvalde, the cover-up unravels," Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said. "We have evidence that the complete lack of command, control, and communication led to a failed law enforcement response to kill the shooter and a failed medical response to save the children and teachers. DPS failures and delays by first responders resulted in lives lost. Uvalde families were let down by their government and the people sworn to protect them on May 24th. In the months since, Governor Abbott, DPS Director McCraw, and DA Mitchell Busbee have kept Texans in the dark. The elections are over. It’s time for the coverup to end.”
The district introduced new security measures, such as higher fencing and more security cameras on campuses, ahead of the start of the academic year in August. But families in Uvalde criticized the plan and cast doubt on its efficacy, the Tribune reported.
A recent security audit showed continued lapses in school security. On Monday, an inspector conducting a safety audit of schools in Uvalde entered a school cafeteria through a door that did not lock properly, the district superintendent said at a school board meeting.
He declined to say which schools were subject to the security audit.