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Uvalde survivors file a $27 billion class-action lawsuit against police and others

Crosses, flowers and other memorabilia form a make-shift memorial for the victims of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Eric Gay
/
AP
Crosses, flowers and other memorabilia form a make-shift memorial for the victims of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, filed a $27 billion class-action lawsuit against the city, the school district, multiple law enforcement agencies and individual officers present that day, court documents show.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Austin, lists the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District's police department, the Uvalde Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, as well as individual officers from each of these agencies as defendants.

Texas DPS Chief Steve McCraw, one of the highest ranked officers being sued, is included on that list. Parents of Robb Elementary School students have previously called on McCraw to resign. He maintains the agency as an institution did not fail in the response to the shooting.

Parents, teachers, school staff and students who were on scene May 24, the day 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers were killed and dozens more injured, are listed as plaintiffs. They are demanding redress for "the indelible and forever-lasting trauma" caused by the failures of law enforcement to quickly respond to the shooting.

In the weeks following the shooting, local lawmakers launched an investigation, held a hearing and released a report into what went wrong that day. Investigators uncovered the serious security lapses, the slow police response, and the missed warning signs of the shooter.

Contrary to what law enforcement initially said happened in the hours after the shooting, officers did not follow their active shooter training. That training instructs officers to quickly neutralize a shooter. In Uvalde, a reported 376 officers from several agencies would arrive on scene after the shooter, Salvador Ramos, entered the school. Despite 911 calls from students in the adjoined fourth grade classrooms that Ramos attacked, officers outside in the hallway did nothing for more than an hour.

"Law enforcement took seventy-seven minutes to accomplish what they were duty bound to expeditiously perform," the complaint says.

Court documents further detail how a heartbreaking array of other failures by officers on the scene, as well as the lackluster security at Robb Elementary, contributed to the tragedy.

In response to a request for comment on the lawsuit, the City of Uvalde sent NPR a statement, saying that "The City has not been served and does not comment on pending litigation."

It's unclear if other parties listed in the lawsuit have been served yet. Representatives for the Uvalde school district as well as the Texas DPS didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Some officers on scene that day, including Texas DPS Sgt. Juan Maldonado and Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo, were terminated months after the shooting. The Uvalde school district also announced in October that their police department would be suspended.

This is the first class-action lawsuit filed in connection with the tragedy, but other parents of some of the children killed have also recently sued the school district, as well as the manufacturer of one of the guns used, Daniel Defense, and others.

The city of Uvalde pursues its own legal action

On Thursday, the city of Uvalde announced it filed its own lawsuit against Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell, in her official capacity. The city wants a judge to compel Mitchell and her office to hand over all law enforcement investigation records and materials related to the shooting at Robb Elementary.

"Despite the City of Uvalde's efforts to amicably obtain the necessary investigative materials for its ongoing Uvalde Police Department's Internal Affairs investigation, the District Attorney has blocked the City's ability to obtain critical information to assess its officers' actions and compliance with police department policies and expectations," a statement announcing the lawsuit said.

Mitchell's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz