Uvalde, TX – 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, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve 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.
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were injured during the May 24 attack.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
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.
Less than two weeks ago, Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District Police Department (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.
From surveillance video in the school hallway, it’s clear that Uvalde officers were well armed and had protective gear. Unlike what we were previously lead to believe.
Still they waited. pic.twitter.com/BpvUzWPKAi
— Christopher 🇺🇸 Is Pro-Choice (@cwebbonline) June 21, 2022
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.
Robb Elementary School Teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who taught in classroom 111 and was wounded in the attack, told ABC News on June 6 that he had told the school principal prior to the shooting that the automatic door lock to his classroom was hung up and not latching properly.
“When that would happen, I would tell my principal, ‘Hey, I’m going to get in trouble again, they’re going to come and tell you that I left my door unlocked, which I didn’t,'” Reyes said. “But the latch was stuck. So, it was just an easy fix.”
Records further indicate that police were well-equipped to breach the classrooms much sooner than originally believed, The Texas Tribune reported.
BREAKING: Multiple officers were inside Robb Elementary School with rifles and at least one ballistic shield at 11:52 a.m. the day of the shooting, new video and other evidence shows. They didn’t enter the classroom for another 58 minutes. More soon via @statesman and @KVUE. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/0BcYgq2hcQ
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) June 20, 2022
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 also released transcripts of Chief Arredondo’s cell phone calls to the Uvalde Police Department (UPD) on Tuesday.
“Hey, hey, it’s Arredondo. It’s Arredondo. Can you hear me?” the head of the six-man UCISDPD said at 11:40 a.m. “No, I have to tell you where we’re at. It’s an emergency right now. I’m inside the building. I’m inside the building with this man he has an AR-15, he shot a whole bunch of times. We’re inside the building, he’s in one room. I need a lot of firepower, so I need this building surrounded. Surrounded with as many AR-15’s as possible. Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
“Okay, we have him in the room,” Chief Arredondo continued. “He’s got an AR-15, he’s shot a lot. He’s in the room, he hasn’t come out yet.”
The chief said they needed the area surrounded and noted that he did not have his police radio with him.
“I need them set up on the southside of the building which is the building nearest the funeral home,” he said, referring to the SWAT team.
“They need to be outside of this building prepared,” Chief Arredondo continued. “Because we don’t have enough firepower right now it is all pistol and he has an AR-15. If you can get the SWAT team set up, by the funeral home, okay, and we need, yes, I need some more firepower in here because we all have pistols and this guy’s got a rifle, so I don’t have a radio, I don’t have a radio. If somebody can come in.”
The dispatcher asked the chief to remain on the line at that point.
“I am but I’m gonna drop it when he comes out of that door,” the chief responded before asking the dispatcher to have someone bring him a radio and a rifle.
“Hold on. I’m trying to set him, I’m trying to set him up right now,” Chief Arredondo told the dispatcher. “Okay do me a favor, call me when SWAT is set up, I’m gonna have you on vibrate though, call me twice if you have to okay, alright thank you.”
Despite Chief Arredondo’s claims that he never ordered anyone to stand down during the ordeal, the timeline released by the DPS on Tuesday alleged he did just that at 12:17 p.m.
“Tell them to f—king wait,” he said, according to the DPS. “No one comes in.”
“People are going to ask why we’re taking so long,” Chief Arredondo said at 12:27 p.m. “We’re trying to preserve the rest of the life. Do we have a team ready to go? Have at it.”
Approximately six minutes later, the chief floated the idea of breaching the room through a window and shooting the gunman.
“We’re having a f—king problem getting into the room because it is locked,” he said at 12:42 p.m., adding that the gunman was “shooting everywhere like crazy.”
“They gotta get that f—king door open, bro. They can’t get that door open. We need more keys or something,” he said.
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.