Families of Uvalde victims react with anger, disappointment over report on school shooting

(UVALDE, Texas) — The loved ones of those killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, are reacting with anger and disappointment Sunday after a committee of state lawmakers investigating the massacre released a 77-page report that said law enforcement officers who responded to the rampage “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.”

The public release of the report came as the joint committee of the Texas Legislature met Sunday afternoon with the families of the victims and just days after security video footage from inside Robb Elementary School showing the delayed police response to the attack was leaked and obtained by two Texas news outlets.

The committee’s report laid out in detail the lapses in preparation, training and judgment in connection with the police response to one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

“It’s a joke. Texas failed the students. Law enforcement failed the students. Our government failed the students. What else do you want me to say? The truth is out there. Everybody saw the truth,” Vincent Salazar, whose 11-year-old granddaughter, Layla Salazar, was killed in the attack, told ABC News.

Salazar said he wasn’t going to attend the meeting with the committee at Uvalde Junior College and was only there to pick up a copy of the report to take home and read through it thoroughly.

He said he believes the killer should have never made it into the school, let alone been allowed nearly 77 minutes to kill as numerous state, federal and local law enforcement officers waited in the hallway outside the classrooms where the shooter was holed up.

“If I were these officers, I would leave town,” Salazar said. “They don’t deserve to be here.”

Sergio Garcia, whose 10-year-old son, Uziyah Sergio Garcia, was also killed in the mass shooting, agreed.

“I get paid at my job to do my job. If I didn’t do my job, I wouldn’t be working,” Garcia said told reporters Sunday. “Now, they took an oath, had a badge, they had unlimited resources and they need to pay for what they did not do.”

Garcia said he was “mad at everybody” who appeared to do nothing to save the 19 children and two teachers from being killed.

“In certain schools, they have police, sheriffs in the front. Why don’t they protect our kids like they protect money in a vault at a bank?” Garcia said. “Our kids are more valuable than that money. This is not the first time a school has been shot up and kids have lost their lives. This need to be the last time this happens. It shouldn’t happen anymore. Nobody should ever go through this.”

The report paints the most complete portrait to date of the massacre, which was described a series of “shortcomings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and of various agencies and officers of law enforcement.”

But committee members said they do not know whether a faster or more competent response could have saved lives in the face of a heavily armed gunman who appeared bent on killing everybody in his sight with a high-powered assault rifle.

In addition to making its report public, the committee released video that captured the police response inside the schools.

The official release of the video comes after footage from inside the school as the attack was unfolding was leaked and obtained by Austin ABC affiliate KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

KVUE released a statement, saying, it and the Austin-Statesman elected to publish that footage “to provide transparency to the community, showing what happened as officials waited to enter that classroom.”

KVUE and the American-Statesman both published an edited portion of the never-before-seen footage on Tuesday, ahead of Sunday’s planned release of the video by state lawmakers. The outlets also published the unedited 77-minute version footage online.

Uvalde:365 is a continuing ABC News series reported from Uvalde and focused on the Texas community and how it forges on in the shadow of tragedy.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who expressed anger over the video being leaked and aired before the families first had a chance to review it.

Following Sunday’s meeting, committee members are expected to hold a news conference and make the video public along with its report on the shooting.

Rep. Dustin Burrows, the committee chairman, said the committee had planned to give the families the opportunity to see the video in private before it was released to the public and expressed disappointment that the two media outlets preempted those plans.

The leak of the video infuriated some of the victim’s family members. Some saw it as the latest source of frustration with the investigation that has included inaccurate information from investigators and elected leaders, including an initial statement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that the school’s police immediately engaged the gunman before he got into the school. Abbott later said he was “misled” about the circumstances of the shooting.

“They weren’t supposed to do it without our consent,” Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter, Jackie, was killed in the attack, told ABC News after the video was leaked.

Several of the families were meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, when the video was aired on television and online. Despite the family members and some elected leaders, including Abbott, repeatedly calling for the video’s release, the local district attorney denied the requests.

“We’ve been asking the DA for this video for a while and she refused to let us see it,” Nikki Cross, the aunt of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in the rampage, told ABC News. “So once again, the world got to see it before us. Just like the day of the shooting when Gov. Abbott announced to you all that our children are dead and we have no idea. It’s like reliving that day all over again.”

Christina Mitchell Busbee — the 38th Judicial District Attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Uvalde County — defended her now overridden decision not to release the video in an interview over the weekend with the Uvalde Leader-News, saying the move threatens to jeopardize the investigation, which she said is ongoing and could lead to possible criminal charges if anyone is found to have aided the suspect in planning the attack.

“My goal is to secure justice for the victims, their families, and the citizens of the 38th Judicial District,” Busbee told the newspaper. “This goal cannot be accomplished unless there is a thorough investigation buttressed by fairness, integrity and impartiality free from political and media pressures.”

Burrows said the committee’s release of the video and report are intended to provide transparency to the families of those killed despite guidance from the local district attorney that the footage remain under wraps.

The video published by the news outlets and now released by the committee, including police body-camera video and footage from a surveillance camera mounted in a hallway of the school, shows dozens of law enforcement officers waiting in the hallway outside the adjoined classrooms where the gunman was committing the mass shooting. The officers — including some with protective shields, wearing tactical armor and armed with high-powered rifles — didn’t breach the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as additional volleys of gunfire could be heard on the video from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene, the footage released by the news organizations shows.

The video began by showing the 18-year-old suspect, wearing tactical gear and wielding a high-powered AR-15 style weapon, entering the school unabated at 11:33 a.m. on May 24 and walking down the hallway to the classrooms. A barrage of gunfire could be heard on the footage soon after the gunman entered the school.

Three minutes after the killer entered the school, three police officers, wearing bullet-proof vests and guns drawn, are seen running down the hallway toward the classrooms where the gunman was holed up, while at least four other officers entered the school and took cover, the video shows. Moments later, the three officers who charged down the hallway are seen in the video retreating after coming under fire.

Police eventually breached the classroom and killed the gunman 77 minutes after he entered the school, authorities said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.