After botched response to Uvalde massacre, Texas senator wants better mass shooting training for public safety entities

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, wants to prevent communication breakdowns like the ones that occurred in the botched response to the Uvalde school shooting.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, at a news conference last month. The lawmaker has...
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, at a news conference last month. The lawmaker has filed legislation in the wake of last year’s Uvalde school massacre, the worst school shooting in Texas history.(Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 7:09 AM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) - State Sen. Roland Gutierrez wants the Texas Department of Public Safety to create robust mass shooting response training for all public safety entities after the chaotic response to the Uvalde school massacre delayed medical treatment of victims.

“Everybody in Texas needs to examine the complete and utter failure that happened on this day,” Gutierrez said at a news conference in Austin, joined by families of victims from last year’s Uvalde shooting and the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting. “It must not ever happen again.”

The new slate of bills Gutierrez unveiled Tuesday came less than two months after an investigation by The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and The Washington Post found a faltered medical response undermined the chances that some Uvalde victims would survive the shooting.

Nineteen children and two adults died in the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary. Nearly 400 law enforcement officers responded to the shooting, but the shooter was not confronted for more than an hour. Three victims emerged from the school with a pulse but later died.

Experts told the news outlets last year that police’s failure to confront the shooter was the most serious problem in getting victims care. The news agencies’ investigation examined previously unreleased records that illustrated how communication lapses and unclear lines of authority among responding medical entities further hampered treatment.

On Tuesday, Gutierrez said the victims who had a pulse before later dying “might have lived” had the response been more in line with the average length of a mass shooting, which he said was about 12 to 14 minutes, compared to the 77 minutes children waited in Uvalde before the shooter was killed.

“We do not know how many of the other kids that didn’t have a pulse, at what time did they expire?” he said. “We do not know that.”

Gutierrez is a San Antonio Democrat whose Senate district includes Uvalde. His Senate Bill 738 calls for ensuring all public safety entities in certain counties have the radio infrastructure for communication between all public safety entities, including between different kinds of agencies.

Further, the bill would create a process to train public safety entities in responding to mass shootings. The training would be required to include protection of students at a school; emergency medical response training in minimizing casualties; tactics for denying an intruder entry into a school or classroom; and the chain of command during such an event.

Another legislative proposal outlined Tuesday would create a law enforcement unit tasked with having at least one officer present at each public school and higher education facility in the state. The unit, Texas School Patrol, would be expected to coordinate with local police officials about emergency responses to mass shooting events.

A third proposal, which Gutierrez called “a little bit more aspirational,” would replace a Confederate monument at the Capitol with a memorial to honor victims and survivors of mass gun violence.

“Each parent should be able to send their kids to school knowing that they’re going to be able to pick them up at the end of the day,” Gutierrez said. “We can afford to do this and we should do this and it will have the adequate training to make sure that they can handle this type of situation.”

Senate Bill 737, to create the new police unit, would require 10,000 additional officers in the state within the Texas Highway Patrol; it would cost about $750 million, Gutierrez said.

The memorial resolution would remove the Confederate Soldiers Monument currently on the south grounds of the Capitol to the Austin State Cemetery. According to a copy of the resolution shared by the senator, the new monument would be “wholly funded by private donations.”

“When you go out and you leave this building and you see that memorial outside, it says, ‘We will never forget this date.’ The date that Texas seceded from the Union,” Gutierrez said. “You know what? I hope that people never forget May 24, the days of the incidents of Santa Fe and every other mass shooting in this state. We should never forget because we should never allow this to happen again to another child in this state.”

The state senator last month proposed another series of bills in response to the shooting, including legislation to make it easier for families of the Uvalde shooting victims to sue the state and police officers over the botched law enforcement response and to increase gun safety and law enforcement accountability.

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