Uvalde, TX – A Uvalde school district police officer who knew his schoolteacher wife was among those shot during the massacre at Robb Elementary School was detained and stripped of his weapon when he tried to storm the classroom to save her.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw spoke about the thwarted rescue attempt while testifying before the Texas Senate on Tuesday, KSAT reported.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District Police Department (UCISDPD) Officer Ruben Ruiz arrived at the elementary school after learning that a gunman had opened fire inside the building on May 24, Director McCraw said.
Officer Ruiz’s wife, Eva Mireles, was a teacher in the fourth-grade classroom that came under attack, KSAT reported.
Director McCraw said Officer Ruiz received a call from Mireles that day telling him that “she had been shot and was dying.”
But as Officer Ruiz prepared to storm the classroom, unidentified officers held him back.
“He tried to move forward into the hallway,” Director McCraw said, according to WFAA. “He was detained, and they took his gun away from him and escorted him off the scene.”
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were injured during the May 24 attack.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
Mireles, 44, was among the dead.
Her daughter, Adalynn Ruiz, said her mother died while trying to shield her students from the gunfire, the New York Post reported.
“[She] selflessly jumped in front of her students to save their lives,” Adalynn Ruiz said. “Mom, I have no words to describe how I feel right now, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life. Mom, you are a hero. I keep telling myself that this isn’t real. I just want to hear your voice.”
My sweet mommy , I will miss you forever. 🤍🕊 pic.twitter.com/SIxKrgX6Xi
— Adalynn ✞💛 (@addy_celeste) May 25, 2022
Newly-uncovered surveillance footage from inside Robb Elementary School showed that police did not check the doors to the adjoining classrooms to see if they were locked as they waited for keys and additional equipment to be brought to the scene, sources with knowledge of the investigation said.
Transcripts of police radio communications, phone recordings, and video footage further revealed that many officers who responded wanted to storm the room, but that they were held back amid confusion about who was commanding the police response, The Texas Tribune reported.
During a hearing before the Texas Senate Committee on Tuesday, Director McCraw characterized the law enforcement response to the massacre as “an abject failure,” CNN reported.
“There’s compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre,” Director McCraw said.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject,” he continued. “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
Director McCraw further revealed that none of the radios used by state or local police would have worked inside the west building of the school, CNN reported.
He said that the U.S. Border Patrol has a tower in Uvalde that they use to boost their own radio transmissions, but that their radios also wouldn’t work when they tried to patch their signals with those of local law enforcement.
“Cellphones work, it’s just the portable radios that first responders have didn’t — the irony of ironies,” the DPS director told the committee.
By the time the classroom door was opened and officers were able to fatally shoot the gunman, 77 excruciating minutes had passed since the attack had begun, The Texas Tribune reported.
“What officers were being told was, ‘The subject is contained, the chief is in the classroom or the office, negotiating or talking to the subject,’” Director McCraw said on Tuesday, according to Today. “You’re being told this, there’s no reason to discount that. Now, certainly if you heard, ‘Well, wait a minute, we’re getting 911 calls from children in the classroom.’ And we didn’t know the timeline.”
Less than two weeks ago, UCISDPD Chief Pete Arredondo insisted during an interview with The Texas Tribune that he and the officers under his command “never hesitated” while responding to the mass shooting.
Director McCraw has alleged that Chief Arredondo was the on-site commander who oversaw the police response to the massacre, but Chief Arredondo said he believed he was in the role of a front-line responder and that someone else was commanding the larger police response to the situation.
He also vehemently disputed allegations that he told law enforcement officers to stand down and not breach the building, The Texas Tribune reported.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Chief Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
But according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, security footage from inside the school showed that neither Chief Arredondo nor any of the officers who responded to the school ever attempted to open the classroom doors prior to obtaining the keys, ABC News reported.
The source further alleged that investigators have determined the 18-year-old gunman could not have locked the doors to the classrooms from the inside as officials initially believed, ABC News reported.
The video footage allegedly showed the shooter opening the door to room 111 from the outside.
The door was supposed to lock automatically, but he appeared to enter without obstruction.
The investigation into whether or not the doors to room 111 and 112 remained unlocked during the entire incident remains ongoing, ABC News reported.
Records further indicate that police were well-equipped to breach the classrooms much sooner than originally believed, The Texas Tribune reported.
An officer brought an ax-like Halligan bar used by firefighters to force entry through locked doors within minutes of the first officers responding to the school, but police did not use it and instead waited for keys, according to The Texas Tribune.
Police also had access to rifles and four ballistic shields – at least one of which was available for them to use 58 minutes prior to the time the team actually breached the classroom.
“They had the tools,” active-shooter expert and former Seguin Police Chief Terry Nichols told The Texas Tribune. “Tactically, there’s lots of different ways you could tackle this. … But it takes someone in charge, in front, making and executing decisions, and that simply did not happen.”
New information about the conversations between officers at the scene have also been coming to light.
One such interaction occurred after a DPS special agent arrived at the school approximately 20 minutes after the shooting began, The Texas Tribune reported.
“Are there still kids in the classrooms?” he asked another officer at the scene. “If there is, then they just need to go in.”
The other officer responded that it was “unknown at this time.”
“Y’all don’t know if there’s kids in there?” the special agent angrily responded. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” another officer replied.
The frustrated special agent then turned his attention to the children in other classrooms throughout the school who needed to be evacuated to safety, The Texas Tribune reported.
“Well, there’s kids over here, so I’m getting kids out,” he said.
At one point, someone said it was “critical for everybody to let PD take point on this,” according to the transcript.
“It sounds like a hostage rescue situation,” a DPS special agent said. “Sounds like an [undercover] rescue. They should probably go in.”
The special agent then said he wanted to go evacuate more students.
“Don’t you think we should have a supervisor approve that?” an unknown officer asked.
“He’s not my supervisor,” the DPS special agent replied.
— Texas DPS (@TxDPS) June 21, 2022
The DPS said the total time between the time police first arrived at the scene and the moment the shooter was killed by the team that breached the classroom was one hour, 14 minutes, and eight seconds.
Sources said Chief Arredondo has not been cooperating with investigators who are looking into the police response to the school massacre, ABC News reported.
The chief has denied those allegations.
Director McCraw told the Texas Senate Committee that it was the school teachers – not police – who should be praised for their heroic actions during the horrific school shooting, KVUE reported.