Nashville Shooting Response Undercuts Uvalde Police Fear of AR-15

Nashville Shooting Response Undercuts Uvalde Police Fear of AR-15
Nashville Police Department officers rush towards a shooter in The Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tenn., on March 28, 2023. (Nashville Police Department via The Epoch Times)
Emily Miller

Police in Uvalde, Texas, refused to enter a classroom of elementary school students to stop an active shooter because they feared an AR-15-style rifle. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed last May while police—some of whom had the same type of rifles as the gunman—waited over an hour to stop the threat.

Ten months later, Nashville police never paused before entering the Covenant school and never asked what kind of gun the shooter had, which was also an AR-style rifle. A small group of officers tracked down the shooter and killed her in less than 15 minutes.

AR Rifles

In a story about gun control, The Texas Tribune reported on March 20 that the Uvalde police said on radios that they were afraid to enter Robb Elementary School because the killer had an “AR” rifle.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) shared on Twitter the Tribune report and wrote: “If the Uvalde shooter didn’t have an AR-15 style assault rifle, the carnage he unleashed could have been ended much sooner. That’s not my analysis. That’s the opinion of the police officers who were on scene.”

Feinstein and other gun-control activists said the revelation about the Uvalde police's fear of AR-style rifles supports a federal “assault weapon” ban. Law enforcement leaders disagree.

“I don't care if that shooter had a bazooka,” said Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, spokeswoman for the National Police Association. “That is irrelevant when you are responding to an active shooter situation—especially when it involves children.”
An AR-15-style rifle is lightweight and has certain cosmetic features, such as a pistol grip and a collapsing stock. It is the same as all semi-automatic rifles in function, meaning one trigger pull releases one round.

AR at Nashville

The Metro Nashville Police Department response on March 27,  just a week after the Uvalde report, showed law enforcement is trained to respond to any weapon.
According to police, shooter Audrey Hale had an AR-style rifle with two other guns that fire 9mm ammunition. She fired 152 rounds, of which 126 were 5.56 rifle rounds.

One of the initial responding officers, Detective Sgt. Jeff Mathes, said he heard gunfire as they got closer to Hale. “From my training experiences, I knew those sounds to be rifles," he said at a press conference.  The officers did not slow down at the sound of the rifle shots. They entered a large room and found Hale in front of a wall of windows. Officer Rex Engelbert, a four-year veteran, and Detective Michael Collazo, a nine-year veteran, both shot four rounds at her and ended the rampage.

In the body camera video released by Nashville police, officers are seen taking down the suspect within minutes of entering. She had killed six people, including three children before police arrived.

Nashville Response

Nashville Police released the body camera footage from Engelbert and Collazo on March 28. Englebert pulled up, grabbed an AR-style rifle from the trunk of his car, and walked briskly toward the school. A woman outside told Engelbert that the children were all locked down, but two were missing. Engelbert replied, “Yes, ma’am” as he continued walking toward the door. As other officers converged, Engelbert called out, “Give me three, let’s get three!”

Smith taught active shooter training during her 29 years on the police force. She explained that the Nashville officers were forming an “ad hoc team” for entry, which is part of active shooter training. She said they are taught to get ideally four people to enter. However, they are told to enter alone if necessary. If four are available, they make a diamond formation to go toward the shots as they clear different areas.

Engelbert opened the door for Mathes who said he entered “with purpose” because he knew the “gravity of the situation.” In the video, the officers are seen methodically and quickly clearing classrooms. Smith pointed out that the way they touch each other on the shoulders is called “tagging.” She noted the way they encouraged and directed each other was part of their training.

Uvalde Police Fear AR

The Tribune reported that body camera video showed State Trooper Richard Bogdanski stopping outside the school. He asked on his radio, “You know what kind of gun?”

“AR. He has a battle rifle,” a voice responded.

Bogdanski replied, “What’s the safest way to do this? I’m not trying to get clapped out.”

Pete Arredondo, the disgraced Uvalde school district police chief, told investigators the "firepower" the gunman had "based on what shells I saw" made him decide to not order his men to go into the classroom.

Uvalde Police Department Detective Louis Landry told investigators after the shooting that they needed a new plan after learning the shooter had an AR rifle. Landry said, "It wasn’t just going in guns blazing, the Old West style, and take him out.”

The Choice

Going in “guns blazing” is exactly what police are trained to do.

Zeek Arkham has been in enforcement for 16 years in the New York State area and has done extensive active shooter training. When asked about the rifle fear of Uvalde police, Arkham said it is a "poor excuse in order to justify their cowardice." Arkham said, "I’d rather use my sidearm in order to make the attempt in saving lives than sit outside and twiddle my thumbs with the excuse of ‘I’m outgunned.’”

The Uvalde police decided to wait for a SWAT team with more protective armor that was 60 miles away from the school. Sal LaBarbera, a retired Los Angeles Police Department’s homicide chief, pointed out, “If you watch this Tennessee shooting, these officers were armed the same as Uvalde. Same weapons.” Also, Nashville did not have the ballistic vests used for rifle fire that Uvalde waited for from SWAT.

“The Nashville Police Department knew the risks associated with taking the job. They understood that in this day and age, active shooters and mass casualty incidents can happen," said Arkham, the host of the “Reasonable Suspicion” podcast. "They ran in anyway and set a new standard for police response."

“The Nashville body cam videos were redemptive for American law enforcement because we took a lot of hits for Uvalde," said Smith. “You don’t have a choice to wait. The choice starts the minute we enter the police academy. We chose that our life may be sacrificed for an innocent third person. We are not suicidal, but we have to run toward the shots.”

Emily Miller is an award-winning investigative journalist and author in Washington, D.C. Her newsletter "Emily Posts News" gives readers original, exclusive reporting and insider analysis.
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