Uvalde school shooting

First Lawsuit Filed Against Gun Makers, Law Enforcement, and School District Stemming From Uvalde School Shooting

Attorneys from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman filed a lawsuit against the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD), law enforcement agencies, gun manufacturers, and several other defendants for their roles in the Uvalde school shooting. The complaint seeks damages on behalf of three children, including one who was wounded in the attack, citing significant failures against the school district and law enforcement agencies, as well as negligence, recklessness, and nuisance allegations against the gun defendants.

Baum Hedlund attorneys Stephanie B. Sherman and Monique Alarcon, and Shawn C. Brown from the Law Office of Shawn C. Brown filed the complaint in the Western District of Texas, Del Rio Division (Case No. 2:22-cv-00048) in response to the attack at Robb Elementary School, one of the deadliest school shootings in history.

Sherman, a Baum Hedlund shareholder and lead attorney on this case, says the families she represents are seeking justice and accountability for the “cascade of glaring failures that led a deranged young man to freely enter school grounds and use weapons of war to murder kids and teachers while hundreds of law enforcement officers stood back and did nothing.”

“The horrors at Robb Elementary School were only possible because so many in positions of power were negligent, careless, and reckless,” Sherman says. “It is beyond shameful that Daniel Defense deliberately markets military grade weapons to untrained civilians and young adult males, a demographic responsible for the most mass shootings. This is a company that chooses to stay ignorant of the harm they cause communities like Uvalde so they can continue to recklessly market their products and make millions in profits. Our clients and the Uvalde community demand accountability for their complete disregard of human life.”

“These kids just came back to school, and we are already hearing that many of them are scared for their lives,” says attorney Monique Alarcon. “It’s clear that this unspeakable trauma will be with them for a long time, perhaps for the rest of their lives. This case is about ensuring that they have access to the care and resources they need.”

On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old man with a history of mental disturbance and domestic issues used legally purchased weapons, ammunition, high-capacity magazines, and a Hellfire trigger system to murder 19 children and two teachers. Countless others sustained personal injuries. The attack lasted for over an hour as school district personnel and hundreds of law enforcement personnel stood by failing to act.

According to the complaint, the school shooter was able to assemble a military grade assault weapon with 30-round magazines, enter the school unabated, shoot, terrorize, and kill teachers and children due to the conduct of the defendants and the deliberate choices of the gun defendants to directly market lethal weapons to young untrained civilians.

Plaintiffs in Uvalde School Shooting Lawsuit

  • Corina Camacho: She is suing individually and on behalf her 10-year-old son (G.M., a minor). G.M. was in Room 112 at Robb Elementary when the gunman opened fire, killing the boy’s two teachers and his best friend. The boy was wounded in the shooting.
  • Tanisha Rodriguez: She is suing individually and on behalf of her 9-year-old daughter (G.R., a minor). G.R. was playing on the playground when the gunman fired shots toward the school. She ran into a classroom and hid with other students as the shooting continued all around them.
  • Selena Sanchez: She is suing on behalf of her 9-year-old son (D.J., a minor). D.J. was on his way to the nurse’s office from the gym when he saw the gunman shooting towards classrooms. He hid in a nearby class with other students as the shooting continued all around them.

Defendants in Uvalde School Shooting Lawsuit

  • The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District: Robb Elementary, one of nine schools within the district, has its own police department (UCISD PD). The complaint alleges the district is liable under the Fourteenth Amendment for using its authority under state law to create a dangerous environment for the plaintiffs
  • Pedro “Pete” Arredondo: Chief Arredondo was Chief of Police for the School District (UCISD PD). The complaint alleges Chief Arredondo, as official policymaker for the UCISD PD, failed to take command, deliberately chose to disregard his own written policy on active shooter tactics, and acted with deliberate indifference to the rights to the plaintiffs.
  • The City of Uvalde: The City is charged with the administration and operation of the Uvalde Police Department. The complaint alleges Uvalde and its police department’s policies were moving forces in causing constitutional violations to the plaintiffs.
  • Mariano Pargas: Lt. Pargas was the acting Chief of Uvalde Police Department during the massacre at Robb Elementary. The lawsuit alleges Pargas failed to take command and execute active shooter training protocols.
  • Mandy Gutierrez: Gutierrez was the Principal at Robb Elementary School. The lawsuit alleges Gutierrez failed to alert teachers to the approaching gunman using the available intercom system and failed to initiate a school-wide lockdown.
  • Daniel Defense, LLC: Daniel Defense manufactures, markets, and sells guns, including AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, and accessories for use by untrained civilians and young adults. The gun manufacturer directly sold the Uvalde shooter a DDM4 V7 days after his 18th birthday. The complaint alleges Daniel Defense’s business practices, including aggressive marketing to young adult males, are reckless, deliberate, intentional, and needlessly endanger American children.
  • Firequest International, Inc.: Designed, manufactured, marketed, and sold an accessory trigger system, Hellfire Gen 2, that is used to convert a semiautomatic rifle into the equivalent of a machine gun. The complaint alleges Firequest is in the business of selling accessory trigger systems like the Hellfire Gen 2 trigger system—which is nearly identical to illegal bump stocks—to untrained civilians, young adults, and minors in Uvalde, Texas.
  • Oasis Outback, LLC: A firearms dealer that served as the local gun dealer for Daniel Defense to complete the sale of guns and ammunition to the gunman. The complaint alleges the gun dealer sold the shooter military grade guns and ammunition knowing he was suspicious and likely dangerous.
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.: Designed and/or sold the radio communication devices that some of the first responders used during the Uvalde school shooting. The complaint alleges Motorola’s systems and devices failed when law enforcement officials were attempting to communicate with each other and with dispatch during the Uvalde shooting.
  • Schneider Electric USA, Inc. (“Schneider”): Manufactured and installed the door locking mechanisms for outside and classroom doors at Robb Elementary. The gunman allegedly walked onto campus through an unlocked door and entered a classroom through a door with a broken lock.

Causes of Action

  • Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Right to Due Process of Law (Against Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, The City of Uvalde, Chief Pedro Arredondo, Lt. Mariano Pargas, and Principal Mandy Gutiérrez)
  • Negligence (Against All Defendants)
  • Negligent Entrustment (Against Daniel Defense, Firequest International, and Oasis Outback)
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Against All Defendants)
  • Products Liability – Failure to Warn (Against Motorola and Schneider Electric)
  • Products Liability – Manufacturing Defect (Against Motorola and Schneider Electric)
  • Products Liability – Marketing Defect (Against Daniel Defense, Firequest International, and Oasis Outback)
  • Nuisance (Against Daniel Defense, Firequest International, and Oasis Outback)
  • Punitive Damages (Against All Defendants Except Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and The City of Uvalde)

Timeline of Robb Elementary School Shooting

The following contains allegations only; there has been no determination of liability in this matter.

May 17, 2022: The day after his birthday, the gunman purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15, AR-15 style, semi-automatic rifle, from Oasis Outback in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman bought 1,740 rounds of 5.56mm 75 grain boat tail hollow points for $1,761.50 shipped directly to his house.

May 18, 2022: The gunman returned to Oasis Outback to buy 375 rounds of 5.56 caliber ammunition.

May 20, 2022: The gunman returned to Oasis Outback to pick up another weapon, an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, DDM4 V7, which he bought directly online from Daniel Defense for $2,054.28. The gun had a 16-inch barrel and total gun length of 32 ¼” – 35 7/8”.

May 24, 2022:

Morning: The gunman sent a Facebook private message to a girl in Germany telling her he shot his grandmother in the head and would shoot up the elementary school. He shot his grandmother in the face, stole her vehicle, and drove to nearby Robb Elementary. The gunman’s grandmother called the Uvalde PD.

11:27 a.m.: Robb teacher, Emilia “Amy” Marin exited the school building via an exterior door in the west hall to retrieve food for a school party leaving the door propped open with a rock. The School District and its leaders allowed staff to prop open doors for their convenience, in violation of its own safety protocols.

11:28 a.m.: The gunman crashed his grandmother’s truck into a dry ditch near the school. Two people from nearby Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home approached the crash scene at 11:29:02 a.m. and ran when the gunman shot at them with a rifle. The witnesses called 911.

11:29 a.m.: Teacher Emilia Marin returned through the school’s west entry exterior door kicking the rock from the door she propped open, then pulled it shut while she continued to look out of the exterior door as she frantically spoke on her cell phone. Ms. Marin attempted to enter a door on the south side of the west hallway only to find it locked. She knocked on the door, and it was eventually answered by another female, whom she advised of the emergency. They moved into classrooms to secure their students. The door is a security door supposed to lock automatically when closed. According to School District Board of Trustees meeting minutes, the doors were made and/or installed by Schneider Electric USA, Inc.

11:30 a.m.: The gunman, wearing dark clothing and carrying a bag, left the crash scene and climbed a five-foot chain-link fence onto the school property and walked across the open grounds between the fence and the teachers’ parking lot towards the school buildings on the west side of the school campus. Robb Elementary Coach Yvette Silva was outdoors with a group of third graders, and she spotted the gunman’s backpack being tossed over the school fence followed by a person dressed in black climbing over it. She then saw the person raise a gun and shoot. Coach Silva thought the gunman was shooting at her, and she ran from the field toward her classroom. She used her school radio to report: “Coach Silva to office, somebody jumped over the fence and he’s shooting.” She ran toward a group of third graders on the school playground, including Plaintiff G.R., to tell them to lock down. She expected to hear an announcement of a lockdown, but she did not hear one right away. Meanwhile, the gunman proceeded to the fourth-grade teachers’ parking lot, continuing to fire his gun. Robb Elementary Principal, Mandy Gutierrez, was in her office when she heard Coach Silva’s report over the radio. Principal Gutierrez attempted to initiate a lockdown on the Raptor application but had difficulty making the alert because of a bad wi-fi signal. She did not communicate the lockdown alert over the school’s intercom. Instead, she called and spoke with Chief Arredondo, who told her, “shut it down Mandy, shut it down.” She told head custodian Jaime Perez to ensure that all the doors were locked. She initially locked down in her own office, but she later moved to the cafeteria.

11:31 a.m.: The gunman is seen on video walking between cars shooting, and a Uvalde PD unit is captured arriving at the crash site. At 11:31:43, a.m. a UCISD PD officer drove through the west gate near the crash site and across the field to the south side of the building at a high rate of speed. The gunman was in the parking lot, but the UCISD PD officer did not see him due to his haste. A teacher frantically called 911 telling dispatch, “He’s shooting!” Gun shots are heard in the background while the teacher, terrified, yelled repeatedly for the kids get to their classrooms.

11:32 a.m.: The gunman reached the west teachers’ parking lot adjacent to the building and fired shots through windows into the westmost classrooms before entering the building.

11:33 a.m.: The gunman entered the school through the back westside door that was unlocked. The teacher who kicked the rock and shut the propped door did not check to see that it was locked allowing the gunman easy access inside the school. Video showed the gunman open and enter the school building unabated. The exterior doors on the east and south sides of the building were also unlocked so the gunman had several options for entry. Twenty-four seconds after the gunman entered the school and walked down the hallway, he shot into the classrooms spraying over 100 bullets in 2 ½ minutes killing and injuring many innocent victims. There were no School District police inside the school. At 11:33:24 a.m., the gunman fired rounds from the hallway toward classrooms 111 and 112. At 11:33:32 a.m., he entered classroom 111, which was unlocked. The rate of fire was initially very rapid then slowed, lasting only a few seconds. The sound of children screaming was removed from video recordings released to the public.

11:33:37 a.m.: The gunman backed out of classroom 111 into the south hallway and fired shots from the hallway into classroom 112. The gunman then re-entered classroom 111 and continued the shooting spree. The gunman fired over 100 rounds by 11:36:04 a.m., according to audio analysis.

11:35 a.m.: Three Uvalde PD officers entered the school through the west exterior door into the west hallway. The officers had external armor, two with concealable body armor, two rifles, and three pistols.

11:36 a.m.: Four additional law enforcement officers arrived, including two Uvalde PD officers, a Uvalde PD SWATT team commander, and UCISD PD Chief Arredondo. Chief Arredondo was at his office at the Uvalde High School when he heard “shots fired” on the radio. He rushed to Robb Elementary unprepared, carrying only a Glock 22 handgun. He had no classroom keys, radio, or protective gear. When he got to the school, he dropped his radios near the school fence because they bothered him. He arrived with another UCISD PD officer and two Uvalde PD officers. They had three external body armor carriers, concealable body armor, and pistols. Chief Arredondo was required by the School District’s active shooter plan to set up an outside command post as the on-scene commander, but he did not.

Chief Arredondo told the Texas House Committee:

“[W]hile you’re in there, you don’t title yourself…I know our policy states you’re the incident commander. My approach and thought was responding as a police officer. And so I didn’t title myself. But once I got in there and we took that fire, back then, I realized, we need some things. We’ve got to get in that door. We need an extraction tool. We need those keys. As far as … I’m talking about the command part … the people that went in, there was a big group of them outside that door. I have no idea who they were and how they walked in or anything. I kind of – I wasn’t given that direction…you can always hope and pray that there’s an incident command post outside. I just didn’t have access to that. I didn’t know anything about that.”

No officer from Uvalde PD assumed the role of incident commander either, even in the face of Chief Arredondo’s failure to do so. Lt. Pargas, the acting Chief of Uvalde PD, told the House Committee that, it was his understanding that officers on the north side of the building understood there were victims trapped inside the classroom with the gunman. And although nobody said it, he and the officers on the north side of the building were waiting for other personnel from Department of Public Safety or BORTAC to arrive with better equipment like rifle-rated shields. Portable radios used by UCISD PD and other law enforcement officers did not work inside the school building, and officers had to step 10 feet away from the school to receive signals. Radios used by Border Patrol agents did work but poorly.

Plaintiff G.M.’s teacher, Ava Mireles, was killed in front of him. Ms. Mireles called her husband, Ruben Ruiz, a UCISD PD police officer, to tell him she was shot and dying. Officer Ruiz was seen at this time checking his phone, then a few minutes later, heard telling the other officers his wife was shot. After Ms. Mireles was shot and called her husband, her phone slipped, and a female student grabbed it and called 911. She called several times asking them to send the police.

11:37 a.m.: Uvalde PD officers converged on rooms 111 and 112 led by Lt. Martinez and SSgt. Eduardo Canales but retreated when the gunman fired. UCISD PD and Uvalde PD police did not make another attempt at the gunman for more than an hour, until U.S. Border Patrol officers arrived.

11:43 a.m.: Chief Arredondo called for more firepower because he had only a pistol compared to the gunman’s AR-15, 30-round magazines, and bags of ammunition. He gave orders to officers to stand down while the shooter was actively shooting teachers and students trapped in classrooms 111 and 112. Chief Arredondo later told the public he thought the gunman was barricaded and no more children were at risk. But audio recordings confirm shooting was ongoing: 11:40:58 a.m., the gunman fired a shot, at 11:44:00 a.m., the gunman fired another shot, and at 12:21:08 p.m., the gunman fired 4 more shots.

During each instance, the event was active requiring an immediate action plan. Video footage show hundreds of officers standing with firearms and tactical gear, body armor, and ballistics shields, but no one acted.

11:51 a.m.: Law enforcement from various agencies (including Uvalde PD, UCISD PD, Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department, Fire Marshals, Constable Deputies, Southwest Texas Junior College Police Department, and the U.S. Border Patrol) arrived. There were approximately 376 law enforcement officers at the school. Meanwhile, terrified students and teachers trapped inside classrooms with the gunman dialed 911.

12:03 p.m.: The first 911 call came from a female child. She called back several times over the next 13 minutes, telling officials there were multiple people dead at 12:16 p.m., she called back and said there was eight to nine students alive.

12:19 p.m.: A 911 call was placed by a student in an adjoining classroom. The child hung up when another student told her to hang up. Another Robb call came in three minutes later. On this one, the sound of three gunshots can be heard. Due to lack of communication among law enforcement and Chief Arredondo’s and Lt. Pargas’ failure to set up a command post, Chief Arredondo, and others inside were unaware of the 911 calls.

12:21 p.m. - 12:34 p.m.: Chief Arredondo discussed tactical options and considerations including snipers, windows, a master key, and how to get into the classroom with a Uvalde PD officer. They also discussed who had the keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead. When the keys arrived, Chief Arredondo tried them, on a different door, but none worked. He never asked the school principal, just feet away, or the head custodian for the master key. He was inside fumbling with keys when he should have been outside at a command post. The House Committee investigation revealed that the door to classroom 111 was probably not locked.

12:36 p.m.: The initial female student caller dialed 911 again. The student was told to “stay on the line and to be quiet.” The student told the dispatcher “He shot the door,” and hung up after 21 seconds. Minutes later, the child called to plead: “Please send the police now.”

12:50 p.m.: Seventy-seven minutes after the massacre began, U.S. Border Patrol officers breached the door of Room 111 and fatally shot the gunman. The Border Patrol officers, using a ballistic shield, entered the classroom and shot and killed the gunman after local law enforcement officers, including UCISD PD and Uvalde PD officers waited outside doing nothing for nearly 50 minutes while children repeatedly called 911 pleading for help. The gunman was standing in front of a closet in the corner of Room 111, and he fired his rifle at the stack of officers coming through the classroom door. The officers fired on the gunman killing him.

Allegations Against UCISD

According to the complaint, UCISD and its leaders, policy makers, and law enforcement did not prepare its schools, staff, and police department for a deadly school shooting. A Texas State House Committee report in August found the school district’s culture of complacency weakened several safeguards that could have slowed an intruder “long enough to receive alerts, hide children, and lock doors.” Instead, UCISD’s failures—including leaving doors unlocked or wedged open, not addressing mechanical issues with classroom doors, and other issues—helped the gunman easily access the school and its classrooms, the complaint alleges.

UCISD’s actions demonstrate “a culture of noncompliance with safety protocols, state-mandated school shooter training, disregard for school alerts, and deliberate indifference to the threat of criminal trespassers and school shooters leaving the children and teachers vulnerable to attack,” the lawsuit alleges.

Chief Arredondo, the lawsuit alleges, bizarrely told the Texas State House Committee that he never thought he was the on-scene commander despite the clear written policy, he implemented, directing that he was the on-scene commander.

The lawsuit further alleges that Principal Gutierrez allowed staff to leave classroom doors unlocked or propped open for the convenience of teachers and staff who did not have keys. Principal Gutierrez was also aware of broken security doors but failed to report the issue to the custodian and ensure repair, the complaint alleges.

According to the complaint, UCISD and UCISD PD:

  • Created a Danger to Plaintiffs in Their Custody
  • Had a Policy, Practice, and Custom of Not Complying with its Own Security Procedures
  • Had a Policy, Practice, and Custom of Not Repairing Broken Security Doors
  • Failed to Have Adequate Alert Systems
  • Had a Policy, Practice and Custom of Not Complying with State-Mandated Active Shooter Protocol Training
  • Had Constitutionally Inadequate Hiring and Supervision Policies and Procedures

Allegations Against the City of Uvalde

The Uvalde Police Department “displayed indifference to the requirements of their position as peace officers and as protectors of students and residents of Uvalde,” the complaint states. Instead of following protocols developed after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, wherein police officers are to immediately confront active shooters, law enforcement officers at Robb Elementary retreated after coming under fire and then waited for backup, per the complaint.

The Texas State House Committee report also noted law enforcement failures stemmed from an absence of leadership and effective communication. According to the complaint, the City of Uvalde and its police department did not follow state mandated active shooter training protocols. The lawsuit further alleges individual liability of Lt. Pargas for failure to take command and execute active shooter training protocols

Allegations Against the Gun Defendants

The lawsuit alleges that Daniel Defense, Firequest International, and Oasis Outback’s negligent, intentional, and reckless marketing and sale of AR-15 style rifles to young adults and civilians in Uvalde, Texas created a nuisance in violation of Texas law, which caused the plaintiffs reasonable fear, apprehension, trauma, injury, and terror in the peaceful use and enjoyment of their homes and property.

According to the complaint, the gun defendants cannot abate any responsibility for this massacre and hide behind the federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The complaint alleges PLCCA is unconstitutional, in violation of the Tenth Amendment. But even assuming PLCCA is constitutional and applies, “PLCAA allows narrow protection from some claims, while expressly permitting other claims based upon the unlawful or negligent actions of the gun dealer or manufacturer, or violation of a state or federal statute applicable to firearms,” the complaint states.

The complaint alleges PLCAA violations for negligent entrustment against Oasis Outback, which was “aware that the gunman was suspicious and dangerous.” Per the complaint, despite the gunman’s young age, inexperience, appearance, display of dangerous characteristics, and meeting the criteria of a young adult school shooter, Oasis Outback entrusted and sold the AR-15 rifles and ammunition to him just days after his 18th birthday.

The gun defendants’ “reckless and outrageous practices” put the plaintiffs at risk of terror, fear, apprehension, injury, and loss of life with full knowledge that their practices put their profits over the safety and interests of school children. The gun defendants conduct was “extreme, outrageous, atrocious, and intolerable in a civilized community,” the complaint alleges.

Allegations Against Motorola and Schneider Electric

The lawsuit alleges Motorola and Schneider Electric manufactured products that were defective and unreasonably dangerous because they did not contain adequate warnings or instructions concerning failure during normal use, and the products failed during normal use. The complaint states, “Motorola’s systems and devices failed inside the school building leaving first responders without information communicated from dispatch and/or other first responders. Schneider Electric’s doors failed to lock as designed after being shut.”

Plaintiffs Seeking Punitive Damages

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages against all of the defendants except UCISD and the City of Uvalde for their reckless disregard for human life, oppression, and malice (despite allegations of UCISD and the City of Uvalde’s own reckless actions, plaintiffs are prohibited from seeking punitive damages against government entities). The defendants were aware of the serious and demonstrable risk of serious bodily injury and death associated with their conduct and that such risks are compounded and worsened by their intentional inaction, the complaint alleges.With full knowledge of such risks, the defendants allegedly caused the plaintiffs to suffer and sustain severe physical, mental, and emotional harm.
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