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'You failed us,' Uvalde shooting victims’ families sue Texas DPS officers, school district

Uvalde, Texas — Nineteen families of the students and teachers killed or injured at Robb Elementary School, announced May 22 they have settled a lawsuit with the city for $2 million and are suing 92 officers with Texas Department of Public Safety, the school district and individual employees.

“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. This settlement reflects a first good faith effort by the City of Uvalde to begin rebuilding trust in the systems that failed to protect us,” Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said in a statement.

“But it wasn’t just Uvalde officers who failed us that day. Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom.”

As part of the settlement, Uvalde will pay the families a total of $2 million from its insurance coverage, according to a statement from attorneys.

In addition, the city pledged to institute several policy changes to the police department, such as a new “fitness for duty” standard for police officers. The city will also establish May 24 as an annual Day of Remembrance, will create a committee to coordinate designing a permanent memorial and will support mental health services for the families, survivors and community, the attorneys said.

The suit comes just before the two-year anniversary of the May 24, 2022, mass shooting in which an 18-year-old stormed into the elementary school, murdered 19 children and two teachers and barricaded himself in a classroom. A total of 376 law enforcement officers from across the region rushed to the school to respond, but ultimately none of them breached the door to the classroom to confront the shooter for 77 minutes.

The slow response was at odds with law enforcement active shooter protocols, widely accepted after the Columbine school shooting in 1999, to stop the threat immediately.

The disastrous police response was criticized in a series of government investigative reports, although no one has faced criminal repercussions. A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report in January blamed the failed response on “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training” on the part of law enforcement officials and said lives would have been saved if police had followed generally accepted practices.

Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo was fired in August 2022 for his role in the failed response to the mass shooting. His replacement, Joshua Gutierrez, has submitted his resignation and his last day on the job is set for June, according to a school official’s statement.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday is just the latest civil action related to the mass shooting.

Previously, the family of Eliahna Torres, a 10-year-old victim, filed a lawsuit in November 2022 against nearly two dozen people and entities, including the gun manufacturer and store that provided the rifle used in the attack and law enforcement officials who responded to the scene. In addition, survivors of the shooting filed a $27 billion class action lawsuit in federal court in December 2022 against multiple Texas law enforcement agencies. A trial date was not set in either lawsuit.

Officials said previously the gunman legally purchased the guns in the days after his 18th birthday.

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