Deep Thoughts Robb Elementary Incident Response – Profile In Cowardice
Robb Elementary Incident Response
– Profile In Cowardice
Watched the entire 77 minutes of the maddening, incomprehensible and reprehensible display of chicken-shittery that elapsed at Robb Elementary last month in Uvalde, Texas during the active shooter incident that claimed the lives of 19 schoolchildren and two of their teachers.
The video, in its entirely, was screened by CNN Anchor and Senior Legal Analyst, Laura Coates and assisting her in evaluating what was seen on the video, were former Washington D.C Chief Of Police Charles Ramsey and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Both men, seasoned law enforcement professionals, who have experienced such incidents in the field, expressed disgust and disdain at what they witnessed in the scene captured by a school hallway security camera.
Below, for reference, is the video that was originally shown on the Austin-American Statesman online portal and which initially was controversial because the timing of the posting was a result of a leak, allegedly from some person at the Texas Department of Police.
The survivors of the shooting victims did not have an opportunity to brace themselves for the shocking and heart wrenching truth depicted in this footage – the likelihood that if a counter attack had been mounted within the first several minutes, many children could have been saved, but also the profoundly shameful inaction from a gaggle of law enforcement (that should have been in scare quotes) first responders.
If you have not already seen the full video, I’m not recommending you do watch or not watch it. Part of me wishes I hadn’t watched it, but another part compelled me to do so, because I cannot render commentary without absorbing the full impact of what is depicted therein.
One of the things of so many, that shocked my soul to the core, was the desperate, pleading screams and entreaties of teachers during the gunman’s killing spree, imploring police to come to their rescue.
What I wanted to highlight, is the incredible contrast between the gutless, “Keystone Cops”, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (or shoot at all)” rudderless inertia of these individuals that swore an oath to “Protect and Serve” as versus many model, selfless, heroic responses that we can measure it against.
Here is a list I came up with just off the top and mostly in no particular order – and interestingly, not always actually involving people whose job description is to face danger head on even at the risk of their own life and limb.
- The First Responders on September 11, 2001. Here is a summary of the courage and the price paid for that courage from the NYC.gov site:More than 400 New York City firefighters and police officers lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC). Many other people at the scene that day and in the weeks that followed also witnessed horrific events at close range, including the loss of colleagues and the gruesome recovery and removal of body parts.In addition, more than 91,000 rescue, recovery and clean-up workers, and volunteers—including virtually all of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY)—were exposed to the environmental hazards at Ground Zero during their work on “the pile” and at other WTC-related locations in the days and months that followed. FDNY members, nearly all of whom responded to Ground Zero within the first week of the attacks, suffered the most intense degree of exposure to the toxic mix of dust and chemicals at Ground Zero. Studying the effects of this exposure on FDNY members has been easier because they are required to undergo pre-employment physicals and receive annual medical check-ups as part of their jobs.
- Flight 93 on September 11:
This tragedy, mixed with iconic self sacrifice, is responsible for providing us with the epic rallying cry, “Let’s Roll!”
- Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and his bravery at the Borderline Bar & Grill, Ventura, California in 2018.
From the Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2018:
Right before Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus rushed into the Borderline Bar & Grill on Wednesday night to respond to reports of a mass shooting, he called his wife. “He said, ‘hon, I got to go, I love you. I gotta go on a call,’” Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Helus was one of the first two law enforcement officers to arrive shortly after 11:20 p.m. About four minutes after arriving on the scene and after hearing shots fired inside, he went through the front door and was hit multiple times, Dean said.
A California Highway Patrol officer who arrived with the sergeant stepped back to secure the perimeter until additional units arrived, then pulled Helus out of the line of fire, Dean said. Helus died later at Los Robles Regional Medical Center.
“They knew they had to take action and they went in and did what they had to do.”
– Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean
Roughly 15 minutes later, a second group of law enforcement personnel had gathered and entered the bar. By then, the shooting had stopped, and the suspect was found dead with a gunshot wound. Eleven people inside were found shot dead, and others wounded.
An emotional Dean described Helus as a friend and colleague. “He knew the risks, but he knew, like we all do, why we serve,” Dean said. “Ron was a hardworking, dedicated sheriff’s sergeant. He was totally committed. He gave his all. And tonight … he died a hero. He went in to save lives, to save other people.”
Helus, 54, a Moorpark resident, was a 29-year veteran of the department and was planning to retire in the next year or so.
“He was an unbelievable man,” sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian said. “He was a lifetime learner, a trainer, a mentor, a leader. He was a cop’s cop. His void is going to be felt throughout our agency.”
Kuredjian said a young man came up to him after the shooting to thank the deputies. “There’s no doubt in my mind that your sergeant’s actions saved others from being victims,” the man told him. “That’s a small piece of solace for the family knowing their father, their husband, ran into danger and saved lives.”
If anything could render the malaise and passivity of the individuals in uniform who stood, cowered and ran backwards in that hallway at Robb Elementary for an hour and 17 minutes, more damning, it is this fact.
After the dismal failure of police in their response to the Columbine High School mass shooting of April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado, the play book in terms of the rules of engagement were dramatically changed.
“Columbine changed everything,” Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired New York City Police Department detective sergeant, told NPR. “When you have an active shooter, you have to end the threat. Because if you don’t, the person continues on killing.” And that, indeed, is what happened in Uvalde.
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National Public Radio also quotes Lisa Dadio, a senior lecturer and the director of the Center for Advanced Policing at the University of New Haven and a retired police lieutenant from the New Haven Connecticut Police Department. “There’s been a very strong movement in law enforcement training for law enforcement to go in as a solo response. And what that means is an officer goes in and stops the threat to stop the killing from occurring.”
Journalist Dave Cullen, author of “Parkland: Birth Of A Movement” and “Columbine”, says that in studying the data from such incidents within the past two decades, he sees numerous examples of how the paradigm shift in training and tactics toward imminent responses have changed the equation during active shooter events.
Cullen says that since Columbine, police have been “trained to move toward the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter. Their goal is to stop him at all costs. They will walk past a dying child if they have to, just to prevent the shooter from killing more.” He also concludes that in the example of the Virginia Tech campus shooting in 2007, the evolved protocol, “probably saved dozens of lives.” That is saying quite a bit when one reflects that the attack left 32 people dead and more than a dozen wounded.
I invite my readers to opine in our comments section on a few issues related to this subject. They are as follows:
- What are your expectations of law enforcement if you were to find yourself or if a loved one was trapped inside a building with a shooter on a rampage? Should they wait until the shooter is finished to intervene?
- Did the first responders avoid engaging the shooter because of a “lack of training” or “lack of leadership”? Are those valid excuses, or was it a lack of courage,; a lack of commitment and a lack of awareness of what they pledged when they were awarded a badge, a gun and a uniform?
- Should all of the officers be dismissed from their departments, save the one or two that actually did finally take out the shooter? Should they ever be trusted to wear the uniform again?
- What are some other examples of actual, self sacrificial heroism within, or without the line of duty that you can think of that stand as a rebuke to the cowardice displayed at Robb Elementary on behalf of responding officers?
4 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts Robb Elementary Incident Response – Profile In Cowardice”
If a person chooses to be a policeman or any person in a field where they are expected to protect people ~ they should be trained to protect. They should indeed “run to the sound of ANY trouble”. If I’m in trouble I want them to break down the door and help me.
The “so called” police in Uvalda should NEVER be allowed to carry a fire arm again or work as a guard or policeman anywhere in the USA.
I am a 72 year old retired law enforcement officer and administrator, and have served on three departments (LA in California and two in Colorado). I have been following the investigations of the Robb Elementary multiple murders in Uvalde, Texas. According to current reports, there were 376 law enforcement officers who responded to that call for help. Very little assistance was rendered to save those students and teachers for 77 minutes, an hour and seventeen excruciating minutes as terrified children called 911 on cell phones pleading for help. Blame is being spread across the board, but as a former law enforcement officer, based on the surveillance cameras in the school hallways and officer body-cams, I see a totally unacceptable response!
As cops, our job is to run INTO danger and stop it, something that is counterintuitive for most people, who run AWAY from danger. Seeing those cops fleeing in that hallway when they heard AR-15 shots killing children on the other side of the wall was an absolute disgrace in my opinion. Cops don’t do that. I don’t care about who was supposedly in charge, or if anyone was truly in charge due to the multiple agencies overlapping, I would think that at least ONE properly trained officer would have breached that unlocked classroom door and blown away the shooter who was using the innocence of a school setting as a killing field.
I could not have simply hung out in the hallway, running when I heard shots fired, using hand sanitizer in the hallway dispenser, or talking on a cell phone. This is an embarrassment to the law enforcement community in my opinion! The parents and citizens there, and everywhere really, are right in holding the law enforcement establishment responsible. Sure, they could not have maybe prevented the initial murders during their response time to the building, but seeing the video of shots being fired AFTER the cops were on scene, and seeing them flee like frightened children themselves when they heard those shots, is absolutely indefensible! It seems apparent based on what I am seeing visually and hearing audibly in the hall-cam footage that more than one child was murdered while the cops left the immediate danger of the classroom by quickly retreating in mass AWAY from the killing area.
I am sickened by what I am seeing, and also hearing in subsequent investigations about MULTIPLE warning signs long before the children’s heads were being blown off and splattered on the floor and walls by those .223 high power rounds. The murderer was referred to as “School Shooter” in his social media circles … hmm, might be a clue? Anyway, I can hardly believe that at least one officer would have not thought: “Chain of command be damned, this is immediate and I’m going in!” Law enforcement has a LOT to retool in their training and coordination efforts from here forward. There is no psychological relief forthcoming for the parents and families – they will pay for the rest of their lives for the incompetent law enforcement response!
Steve, thank you for your comments – excellent observations from the standpoint of someone actually with law enforcement experience. Sorry about the delay in approval. Just getting caught up with housekeeping.
At first I thought it was a matter of several law enforcement agencies responding, and no one being clear as to who was the incident commander. And when FB friends called the law enforcement officers in Uvalde “cowards” I objected. I just couldn’t believe that 400 law enforcement officers, or most of them anyway, were cowards. Sadly, as time passed and more information came out, I realized it was true.
It was reported in the first hours after the massacre that Uvalde School Police Chief Peter Arredondo was in charge, because he was first on the scene, and it was essentially his jurisdiction, but he denied that later. So who was “calling the shots” (pun intended) among the law enforcement agencies and officers who responded that day?
Apparently 400 officers were all very confused about that, as well as being cowards, because according to the active shooter training that they had all received, some very recently, any one of them could have, taken the initiative. Any one of them could have, and should have, done their duty to go in and stop the shooter before he could kill any more, just as Officer Helrus did at the Borderline Bar and Grill.
They didn’t need to wait for reinforcements, shields, or permission before doing their sworn duty. If they had only had the courage how many of the 21 who died might have been saved? We’ll never know,
But one of the teachers died on the way to the hospital, and she had told her husband on the phone near the beginning of the massacre that she had been shot, so her wounds simply caused her to “bleed out” slowly over the next hour or so. If those two courageous officers who did finally take it upon themselves to go in and stop the shooter, had gone in an hour before, in all likelihood she could have been saved. Maybe others could have been saved too.
While I agree theoretically that none of those cowardly officers should ever be entrusted with a badge and a gun again, in reality if they were all fired there would be no law enforcement officers left in that area, since they were all there. So, a lot of training is in order, with practice drills weekly until their response is automatic.
Sometimes fear is due to lack of knowledge and training. I have seen that in the hospital throughout my nursing career. Some of the most highly educated doctors and nurses don’t have the clinical training they need to feel confident in an emergency, so they are afraid. I imagine it might be the same with police officers. Police officers, Doctors, Nurses, and first responders go through extensive education and training, but sometimes human nature makes them reluctant to admit they don’t feel 100% confident in their knowledge and skills, and they need more practice. It’s hard enough for people in the medical profession to admit that, but in the case of macho-men (and women) cops, many of whom are veterans, I would imagine their over-sized egos might prevent them from asking for more training. And some of them, such a School Police Chief Arredondo, (who was a retired Uvalde police officer of twenty+ years, who only oversaw nine school resource officers), were older and their training wasn’t recent. So, in my opinion, the lesson to be learned in Uvalde, as well as everywhere across our country, is that continuous updating and skills practice is necessary to prevent officers from being afraid to do their duty when an emergency situation of any kind arises.
And, in my opinion, anyone who doesn’t feel that they are committed enough to run towards the danger should not be in law enforcement.
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