The Justice Department released a nearly 600-page report on the 2022 Uvalde school shooting.
The DOJ described the law-enforcement response to the shooting as "cascading failures."
The crime scene teams nearly missed crucial evidence because it was thrown away, the DOJ said.
The investigative teams assigned to process the scene of the Uvalde school shooting almost missed a crucial piece of evidence because it somehow ended up in the trash, according to a bombshell new Justice Department report criticizing law enforcement's response to the May 2022 crisis.
The Justice Department released its long-anticipated report on Thursday, which offered a blistering critique of police's "cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training" in responding to the active shooter situation.
The shooting ultimately killed 19 children and two staffers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The Justice Department's nearly 600-page report documented law enforcement's failure to confront the shooter for over an hour while children trapped inside called 911 and pleaded for help.
But law enforcement's failures extended far beyond the immediate response to the shooting, the Justice Department's report said. Even the management of the six crime scenes — which included multiple classrooms, the shooter's vehicle, and the shooter's grandparents' house — was flawed, the report said.
For instance, the crime scene teams initially failed to catalogue a crucial piece of evidence, the report said. The shooter had used a "hellfire trigger system" on his AR-15 to increase the rate of his rounds, and the crime scene teams "were not aware of what the device was or that it was integral to the investigation," the report said.
The report said the device was initially photographed on the floor in crime scene photos but wasn't officially cataloged until later when it was found in a classroom's trash receptacle.
Investigators only realized the device's importance and went to look for it after reviewing CCTV footage and "hearing the rapidity of the gunfire during the subject's initial assault on classrooms 111 and 112," the report said.
The report said another issue was "the sheer number of unnecessary officers who entered classrooms 111 and 112 after the shooter was neutralized." Those officers moved deceased victims out of the classrooms and "inadvertently" moved other items, posing challenges for the investigators charged with documenting and processing the crime scene," the report said.
The Justice Department's report recommended that to prevent such a misstep, law-enforcement agencies work with their peers in nearby agencies to conduct "multiagency tabletop exercises (TTX) for complex investigations that may necessitate mutual aid and support from each other."
At a press conference on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland summarized the botched police response to the Uvalde shooting and called it "a failure that should not have happened."
"These failures may also have been influenced by policy and training deficiencies at responding law enforcement agencies," Garland said. "Some lacked any active shooter training at all; some had inappropriate training; some lacked critical incident response training; and the vast majority had never trained together with different agencies."
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