“There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack on Robb Elementary was an abject failure and contrary to everything we have learned in the past two decades since the Columbine massacre,” he said. Colonel Steven McCraw told the Texas Senate Special Committee. Protect all Texans.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the West Building, there were a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and incapacitate the subject,” he continued. “The only thing stopping the Corridor of Dedicated Officers from entering Rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to put the lives of the officers ahead of the lives of the children.”
What happened during those 77 minutes has remained unclear, as Texas officials have offered conflicting accounts of the response.
McCraw’s comments on Tuesday represent the first time an official has provided substantive information about the shooting in weeks. He said the decisions to wait contradict established active shooter protocol – to arrest the suspect as quickly as possible.
“The officers had guns, the kids didn’t. The officers had body armor, the kids didn’t,” McCraw said. “The post-Columbine doctrine is clear, compelling, and unambiguous: stop killing, stop dying.”
The Public Safety Department’s schedule showed that 11 officers arrived at the school, several with guns, within three minutes of the shooter entering classrooms. The suspect then shot and injured several officers who approached the classrooms, and they retreated to a hallway outside the classrooms. The group of officers then remained in the hallway and did not approach the door for another 73 minutes.
“As they waited, the commander on the scene was waiting for a radio and guns,” McCraw said, referring to Arredondo. “Then he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Finally he waited for a key that was never needed.”
Despite the criticism, McCraw expressed embarrassment by calling out Arredondo individually. “I don’t like to single out a person and change and say he’s solely responsible, but at the end of the day, if you take command of the incident, you’re responsible,” McCraw said.
Officers did not attempt to force the doors open for over an hour
However, McCraw said video evidence showed no one ever put their hand on the doorknob to check if it was locked. Additionally, Robb Elementary’s doors could not be locked from the inside, McCraw said, calling it “ridiculous” from a security perspective.
Additionally, Arredondo initially said the responding officers needed more firepower and equipment to get through the gates. For example, at 11:40 a.m., Arredondo called Uvalde Police Department dispatch by phone shortly after the shooter fired on officers and requested additional assistance and a radio, according to a DPS transcript.
However, two of the first officers to arrive on the scene had guns, according to McCraw.
Within minutes of their response, an officer also said a Halligan, a firefighting tool used for forcible entry, was at the scene, according to the timeline. However, the tool was not brought into the school until an hour after officers arrived and was never used, according to the timeline.
A security image obtained by the US statesman from Austin shows at least three officers in the hallway – two of whom have rifles and one who appears to have a tactical shield – at 11:52 a.m., 19 minutes after the shooter entered the school.
In all, officers had access to four ballistic shields inside the school, the fourth of which arrived 30 minutes before officers stormed classrooms, according to the timeline.
Why Responding Agents Followed Arredondo’s Lead
An unidentified officer who arrived at 11:56 a.m. said they had to act.
“If there are children in there, we have to go,” the officer said. Another officer replied, “Whoever is in charge will determine that.”
Inside the classrooms, it was carnage. Beginning around 11:33 a.m., the gunner fired more than 100 rounds within minutes, then fired sporadically over the next hour, including at 11:40 p.m., 11:44 p.m., and 12:21 p.m.
Arredondo, however, treated the situation like a barricaded subject, McCraw said, and attempted to speak with the shooter in English and Spanish.
During the Senate committee hearing, members asked McCraw why Arredondo remained responsible for the scene despite the lack of action to arrest the shooter.
McCraw said the person responsible is usually the “senior official of the appropriate agency,” which in this case meant Arredondo, who was also on the scene throughout the incident.
“The sheriff and chief of police from the Uvalde Police Department also differed and said yes, he’s the on-scene commander,” McCraw said. “So by actions and deeds he gave orders and had information and provided information and controlled the scene.
“DPS, Border Patrol, FBI, anyone who came after, U.S. Marshals who came after, it’s not the practice or the policy to take over anything,” did he declare.
“They failed our children”, says the father
The report — in three different news outlets and citing unnamed sources — highlights the lack of transparency Texas officials have with the public in such a critical incident. Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, told CNN on Monday that the reports underscored his questions about why police hadn’t tried to force the doors down sooner.
“We see that there (are) officers with adequate ammunition, adequate equipment to be able to enter this room,” he said. “I just don’t understand why it didn’t happen, why they didn’t come into the room.
“Those answers need to be gotten. They shouldn’t be going through the media like that. We should be asking law enforcement to tell us exactly what went wrong. And the fact that we’re not getting those information is only a parody in and of itself.”
CNN has contacted both Arredondo’s attorney, George Hyde, and the Uvalde Police Department regarding the reports.
Arredondo, who has not spoken in a public capacity since the incident, will testify behind closed doors before a Texas House committee investigating the shooting on Tuesday, the committee said.
The new report has further angered grieving families whose questions remain unanswered.
“They’re supposed to be trained professionals,” Flores said of the police. “I don’t understand the reason why they backed up so long to get them in… Backing off a whole hour, leaving them inside with that shooter, that’s not right. It’s loose, loose, loose .”
CNN’s Rosalina Nieves, Dakin Andone, Travis Caldwell and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
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