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Families Of Uvalde School Shooting Victims Sue Texas State Police Over Mishandled Response

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The families of 19 victims from the Uvalde elementary school shooting in Texas filed a $500 million federal lawsuit on Wednesday against nearly 100 state police officers involved in the botched law enforcement response to one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Additionally, the families agreed to a $2 million settlement with the city of Uvalde, under which city leaders promised to implement higher standards and better training for local police.

The lawsuit and settlement announcement came just two days before the second anniversary of the massacre, which occurred on May 24, 2022, when a teenage gunman killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.

This lawsuit, seeking at least $500 million in damages, is the latest of several aimed at holding law enforcement accountable for their response. Despite more than 370 federal, state, and local officers converging on the scene, they waited over 70 minutes before confronting the shooter.

This is the first lawsuit filed following a 600-page Justice Department report released in January, which detailed “cascading failures” in training, communication, leadership, and technology on that day.

The lawsuit highlights that state troopers did not adhere to their active shooter training or confront the shooter, even as students and teachers followed lockdown protocols by turning off lights, locking doors, and remaining silent.

Terrified students inside the classroom called 911 while agonized parents outside pleaded with officers, some of whom could hear gunfire while standing in a hallway, to intervene. Eventually, a tactical team entered the classroom and killed the shooter.

A criminal investigation into the police response, led by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell, is ongoing. A grand jury has been summoned this year, and some law enforcement officials have already testified.

The lawsuit targets 92 Texas Department of Public Safety officials and troopers, as well as the Uvalde School District, former Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez, and former Uvalde schools police Chief Peter Arredondo. The state police had the second-largest response, following the U.S. Border Patrol, which had nearly 150 agents at the scene.

The defendants include two troopers who were fired, another who left the agency, and several others who were investigated by the agency. The highest-ranking DPS official named is South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon.

The Texas DPS declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The plaintiffs include the families of 17 children killed and two wounded. A separate lawsuit filed in December 2022 by different plaintiffs against local and state police, the city, and other school and law enforcement agencies seeks at least $27 billion and class-action status for survivors.

Additionally, 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 families said the city settlement was capped at $2 million to avoid bankrupting the city where they still reside. The settlement will be paid from the city’s insurance coverage.

The city of Uvalde stated that the settlement would bring “healing and restoration” to the community.

However, Javier Cazares, father of slain 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, noted that the announcement—made in the same Uvalde Civic Center where families were informed of their children’s fates—was sparsely attended.

Under the settlement, the city agreed to a new “fitness for duty” standard and enhanced training for Uvalde police officers. It also designates May 24 as an annual day of remembrance, establishes a permanent memorial in the city plaza, and supports mental health services for families and the greater Uvalde area.

The police response to the shooting has faced significant criticism and scrutiny from state and federal authorities. The 600-page Justice Department report in January outlined “cascading failures” in training, communication, leadership, and technology.

Another report commissioned by the city noted multiple missteps by law enforcement but defended the actions of local police, sparking anger from victims’ families.

“For two long years, we have languished in pain and without any accountability from the law enforcement agencies and officers who allowed our families to be destroyed that day,” Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said Wednesday. “This settlement reflects a first good faith effort, particularly by the City of Uvalde, to begin rebuilding trust in the systems that failed to protect us.”

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