Officers could have stopped Uvalde gunman three minutes after entering school, Texas public security chief testifies

Police had enough officers at the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to arrest the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they never checked a classroom door to see if it was locked, he said. the Texas state police chief testified Tuesday, pronouncing the law enforcement response a “abject failure.”

The police officers with rifles instead stopped and waited in a school corridor for nearly an hour while the gunman carried out the May 24 attack on Robb Elementary School which left 19 children and two teachers died. The 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.

“I don’t care if you’re wearing flip flops and Bermuda shorts, go in,” said Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, in violent testimony at a state Senate hearing.

The classroom door, it turned out, could not be locked from the inside, but there are no indications that officers tried to open it while the gunman was holed up, said Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the department. Texas Public Safety, in blistering testimony at the state Senate hearing. Instead, he said, the police waited for a key.

“I have very good reasons to believe he was never protected,” McCraw said of the door. “How about we try the door and see if it’s locked?”

Delays in law enforcement response have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.


The Texas official provides violent testimony criticizing law enforcement’s response to the Uvalde shooting

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McCraw addressed Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District Police Chief who was in charge, saying, “The only thing that prevented a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on the given that he decided to put the lives of the officers before the lives of the children. “

“Obviously, not enough training has been done in this situation, plain and simple. Because terrible decisions have been made by the commander on the spot,” McCraw said. He said investigators were unable to “re-interview” Arredondo.

The head of public security presented a timeline stating that three officers with two rifles entered the building less than three minutes after the gunman. Several other officers entered a few minutes later.

The police decision to detain went against much of what law enforcement had learned in the two decades following the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in which 13 people were killed, McCraw said.

“You don’t wait for a SWAT team. You have an officer, that’s enough,” he said. She also said that the agents didn’t need to wait for the shields to come into the classroom. The first shield arrived less than 20 minutes after the shooter entered, according to McCraw.

Also, eight minutes after the shooter entered, an officer reported that police had a “hoodlum” crowbar they could use to break through the courtroom door, McCraw said.

Shooting in the Texas school
Using a diagram from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testifies at a Texas Senate hearing at the state capital on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Austin, Texas.

Eric Gay / AP


State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an external door that had been opened by a teacher. However, McCraw said the teacher had closed the door, but unbeknownst to him, it could only be closed from the outside. The gunman “went straight,” McCraw said.

The gunman knew the building well, having attended fourth grade in the same classrooms where he carried out the attack, McCraw said. The gunman never communicated with the police that day, the head of public security said.

Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt said the entire premise of lockdown and shooter training is useless if the doors can’t be closed.

Bettencourt challenged Arredondo to testify in public and said he should retire from work immediately. He angrily pointed out that gunshots were heard as police waited in the corridor.

“There are at least six shots fired during this period,” he said. “Why is this person shooting? He’s killing someone. Yet this incident commander finds every reason not to do anything.”

McCraw spent nearly five hours providing the clearest picture of the massacre ever, outlining a number of other missed opportunities, communication interruptions and mistakes based on an investigation that included some 700 interviews. Among the missteps:

  • Arredondo did not have a radio with him.
  • The police and sheriff radios did not work inside the school. Only the radios of the Border Patrol agents at the scene worked and didn’t work perfectly.
  • Some school diagrams used by the police to coordinate their response were wrong.

Questions about the response from law enforcement began a few days after the massacre. McCraw said three days after the shooting that Arredondo made “the wrong decision” when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even though graduate students trapped inside two classrooms were calling. the emergency services and distressed parents outside the school were desperately begging officers to enter.

Arredondo later said he did not hold himself responsible and assumed that someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He declined repeated requests for comment from the Associated Press.

As for the time it took before the agents entered the classroom, McCraw said, “In an active shooter environment, that’s intolerable.”

“This set our profession back a decade. That’s what it did,” he said of the police response to Uvalde.

TOPSHOT-US-TEXAS-SCHOOL-CRIME
Crosses adorn a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on May 31, 2022.

CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images


Police found nothing that could be a red flag in the shooter’s school disciplinary files, but learned through interviews that he engaged in animal cruelty. “He walked around with a lot of dead cats,” McCraw said.

In the days and weeks following the shooting, authorities provided conflicting and erroneous accounts of what happened, sometimes withdrawing the statements within hours of making them. But McCraw assured lawmakers: “Everything I witnessed today is confirmed.”

McCraw said if he could only make one recommendation, it would be for more training. He also said that every Texas state patrol car should have a “travel bag” included, including a shield and tools for smashing doors.

“I want every soldier to know how to violate and have the tools to do it,” he said.

The families of those who lost their lives during filming are demanding responsibility by law enforcement after the Austin American-Statesman posted a photo of the armed police in the school hallway. Images reviewed by the newspaper show a timestamp taken nearly an hour before the gunman was stopped.

Several family members of the victims made emotional pleas during a school board meeting on Monday to fire Arredondo.

“We were disappointed with Pete Arredondo,” said Brett Cross, uncle and guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia. “He has disappointed our children, teachers, parents and cities, and by keeping him on your staff, you continue to disappoint us.”

“My mother died protecting her students. But who was protecting my mother?” said Lyliana Garcia, the daughter of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers who died trying to protect their students.

A senior deputy sheriff told the New York Times that two Uvalde City police officers also lost a fleeting chance to shoot the gunman before he entered the school.

Unidentified officers said so, one of whom was armed with an AR-15 style rifle he was afraid of hitting the children playing on the shooting line outside the school, Deputy Chief Ricardo Rios of neighboring Zavalla County told the newspaper.