Numerous armed police officers managed to enter the Texas elementary school where 21 people were killed during a mass shooting last month just minutes after the gunman stormed the building — but it took authorities nearly an hour to stop the shooter, the Austin Statesman reports.
Documents and bodycam footage reviewed by the publication revealed Monday that local police entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde armed with rifles and a ballistic shield nine minutes after the shooting began, but failed to confront and fatally shoot the gunman until almost an hour later. Two teachers and 19 children were killed during the incident.
A local news reporter shared a screenshot of the camera footage in question on Twitter, depicting officers with rifles entering the school hallway at 11:52 a.m. The gunman could be heard firing his weapon almost 30 minutes after their arrival.
“If there’s kids in there, we need to go in there,” one officer said in the video, according to the report. A second officer added, “Whoever is in charge will determine that.”
Investigators believe this is significant because it indicates they had more than enough firepower and protection to enter the classroom before they did. Officers were growing impatient far sooner: “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there,” one said on body camera video.
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) June 20, 2022
The Statesman report reveals 11 officers were on the scene at Robb Elementary within three minutes of the gunman — including Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) Chief of Police Pete Arredondo, though they were armed with only pistols. Arredondo previously said he was one of the first to arrive on the scene and became the de facto commander onscene, despite not having radios nor keys for the classrooms.
“It’s an emergency right now,” he said, per the Statesman. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot . . . They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now… It’s all pistols.”
Arredondo previously told the Texas Tribune that he “didn’t issue any orders” and “called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
The Statesman report also found that Arredondo attempted to speak to the gunman, asking if he could hear him.
Investigators are set to present the information at a Texas Senate hearing Tuesday, according to the Statesman. The hearing will serve as the first time that state lawmakers will be able to hear from members of the community about gun violence.
Last week, Christopher Salazar, the uncle of shooting victim Jose Flores, Jr., 10, told Rolling Stone that he urged police officers to enter the school building while the gunman shot at children.
“I was looking for my nephew and I even told [authorities] I’ll go in there myself,” he said, adding that they urged police officers to enter the school and save their children: “’Hey look, our children are getting shot. They can’t defend themselves. Go in there! Go in there!’… They really didn’t do anything, although they were there standing outside … Instead of reacting and saying, ‘Hey, look, he’s already shooting. Let’s go in.’”
The new Statesman report comes as officials have refused requests for comments and denied records requests from numerous news organizations. It also comes as the public has been given conflicting information from official sources.
Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Director Steven McCraw has said that the “incident commander” made “the wrong decision” when failing to enter the classroom sooner. T
The Justice Department launched an investigation into the incident response, but U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that the federal inquiry is to “assess what happened and we can make recommendations for the future” not to bring forward criminal charges. Texas DPS is also conducting an investigation, as is the local district attorney.
A former prosecutor for Uvalde who previously worked with Uvalde police on cases told Rolling Stone last week that she believes the seemingly bungled police response is unsurprising.
“It may be shocking to the rest of the world, but the ineptitude, it’s not shocking,” criminal attorney Sara Spector told Rolling Stone, later adding, “I think that’s what the world needs to know: It’s not safe for a lot of kids in rural Texas. They’re just sitting ducks in these schoolhouses.”