Officers could have arrested Uvalde shooter three minutes after he entered school, Texas public safety 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 down, the Texas state police chief said Tuesday, declaring law enforcement’s response a “dismal failure.”

Instead, police officers with guns stood up and waited in a school hallway for nearly an hour while the shooter carried out the May 24 attack on Robb Elementary School that left 19 children and two teachers dead. The 18-year-old shooter used an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle.

It turned out the classroom door couldn’t be locked from the inside, but there was no evidence that officers tried to open it while the shooter was locked up, Colonel Steve McCraw said , director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, blistering. testimony at a state senate hearing. Instead, he said, the police waited for a key.

“I have good reason to believe it was never secured,” McCraw said of the gate. “How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?”

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

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

“Obviously not enough training was given in this situation, plain and simple. Because terrible decisions were made by the commander on scene,” McCraw said. He said investigators were unable to ‘re-interview’ Arredondo.

The public safety chief presented a timeline showing that three officers armed with two rifles entered the building less than three minutes after the shooter. Several other officers entered a few minutes later.

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

“You don’t expect a SWAT team. You have an officer, that’s enough,” he said. He also said officers did not need to wait for shields to enter the classroom. The first shield arrived less than 20 minutes after the shooter entered, according to McCraw.

Additionally, eight minutes after the shooter entered, an officer reported that police had a “hooligan” crowbar they could use to break down the classroom door, McCraw said.

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

Eric Gay / AP

State police initially said the shooter entered the school through an exterior door that was held open by a teacher. However, McCraw said the teacher closed the door, but unbeknownst to him it could only be locked from the outside. The shooter “went straight through,” McCraw said.

Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt said the whole premise of locking down and training shooters is worthless if the doors can’t be locked.

Bettencourt challenged Arredondo to testify in public and said he should have immediately retired from his job. He angrily pointed out that gunshots were heard as police waited in the hallway.

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

Questions about the response from law enforcement began days after the massacre. McCraw said three days after the shooting that Arredondo made the “wrong decision” by choosing not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as fourth-grade students were trapped in two classrooms. class were desperately calling 911 for help and anxious parents outside the school were begging officers to come inside.

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

As for the amount of time that passed before officers entered the classroom, McCraw said, “In an active shooter environment, that’s intolerable.”

“It set our profession back a decade. It did that,” he said of the police response to Uvalde.

Crosses adorn a makeshift memorial for the victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, May 31, 2022.


Police found nothing that would be a red flag in the shooter’s school disciplinary records, but learned in interviews that he had engaged in animal cruelty. “He was walking around with a bag of dead cats,” McCraw said.

In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts of what happened, sometimes retracting statements hours after they were made. But McCraw assured lawmakers, “Everything I testified today is corroborated.”

McCraw said if he could make one recommendation, it would be for more training. He also said a “go-bag” should be placed in every state patrol car in Texas, including a shield and door-opening tools.

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

The families of those who lost their lives in the shooting are demand accountability law enforcement after Austin’s American statesman posted a photo of armed police officers in the school hallway. Footage reviewed by the newspaper shows a timestamp taken nearly an hour before the shooter was arrested.

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

“We were abandoned by Pete Arredondo,” said Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia. “He let our kids, our teachers, our parents and our city down, and by keeping him on your team, you continue to let us down.”

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

A senior sheriff’s deputy told The New York Times that two Uvalde City police officers also passed up a fleeting chance to shoot the shooter before he entered the school.

The unidentified officers, one of whom was armed with an AR-15 type rifle, said they fear of hitting children playing in the line of fire outside the school, Deputy Chief Ricardo Rios of neighboring Zavalla County told the newspaper.

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