Scene of Texas school shooting
Scene of Texas school shooting REUTERS/Marco Bello

Texas state lawmakers on Sunday slammed law enforcement's slow response to the school shooting in Uvalde in May, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, saying more decisive action could have saved lives.

A total of 376 officers -- border guards, state police, city police, local sheriff departments and elite forces -- responded to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School, members of the southern US state's House of Representatives said in a preliminary report quoted by AFP.

But, the lawmakers charged, the situation was "chaotic" due to the officers' "lackadaisical approach" to subduing the gunman.

The report says that 73 minutes elapsed between the first officers' arrival and the shooter's death, an "unacceptably long period of time."

"The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life," the report said.

While the report acknowledged it was likely that most of the victims died immediately after the first shots were fired, some died while being transferred to the hospital.

"It is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue," the report said.

The text does not incriminate certain police teams over others, but says that law enforcement officers "failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety."

Steve McCraw, Texas's public safety chief, has previously described the police response to the attack as an "abject failure," focusing most of his criticism on Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo.

Arredondo, who has been suspended pending the investigation result, "did not assume his preassigned responsibility of incident command" and made analytical errors because he did not have all the necessary information, the Texas lawmakers said.

But no other officers offered to help or replace him, the report said. "There was an overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement at the scene."

A top Texas security official has previously acknowledged that police were wrong to delay storming the classroom in Uvalde where the gunman was holed up with dead and wounded children.

Texas authorities have said that the gunman, Salvador Ramos, lingered outside the building for 12 minutes firing shots, before walking into the school and barricading in a classroom where he killed 19 children and two teachers.

The Justice Department said after the shooting it will review the law enforcement response to the incident in a fair, impartial and independent manner.