Home World Families sue state police over botched response

Families sue state police over botched response


By Acacia Coronado and Jim Vertuno | Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The families of 19 of the victims in the Uvalde elementary school shooting in Texas on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against nearly 100 state police officers who were part of the botched law enforcement response.

The families said in a statement that they also agreed a $2 million settlement with the city, under which city leaders promised higher standards and better training for local police.

The announcement came two days before the two-year anniversary of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers were killed on May 24, 2022, when a teenage gunman burst into their classroom at Robb Elementary School and began shooting.

The lawsuit is the latest of several seeking accountability for the law enforcement response. More than 370 federal, state and local officers converged on the scene, but they waited more than 70 minutes before confronting the shooter.

It is the first lawsuit to come after a 600-page Justice Department report was released in January that catalogued “cascading failures” in training, communication, leadership and technology problems that day.

The lawsuit notes state troopers did not follow their active shooter training and responsibility to confront the shooter, even as the students and teachers inside were following their own lockdown protocols of turning off lights, locking doors and staying silent.

“The protocols trap teachers and students inside, leaving them fully reliant on law enforcement to respond quickly and effectively,” the families and their attorneys said in a statement.

Terrified students inside the classroom called 911 as agonized parents begged officers, some of whom could hear shots being fired while they stood in a hallway, to go in. A tactical team of officers eventually went into the classroom and killed the shooter.

“Law-enforcement’s inaction that day was a complete and absolute betrayal of these families and the sons, daughters and mothers they lost,” said Erin Rogiers, one of the attorneys for the families. “TXDPS had the resources, training and firepower to respond appropriately, and they ignored all of it and failed on every level. These families have not only the right but also the responsibility to demand justice.”

A criminal investigation into the police response by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell’s office remains ongoing. A grand jury was summoned this year, and some law enforcement officials have already been called to testify.

The lawsuit against 92 Texas Department of Public Safety officials and troopers also names the Uvalde School District, former Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez and former Uvalde schools police Chief Peter Arredondo as defendants.

Another lawsuit filed in December 2022 against local and state police, the city, and other school and law enforcement, seeks at least $27 billion and class-action status for survivors. And at least two other lawsuits have been filed against Georgia-based gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, which made the AR-style rifle used by the gunman.

The settlement with the city was capped at $2 million because the families said they didn’t want to bankrupt the city where they still live and to allow the community to continue to heal. The settlement will be paid from city’s insurance coverage.

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