Heavily armed officers delayed confronting a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, for more than an hour, although supervisors at the scene were told that some trapped with him in two elementary school classrooms had need for medical attention, a new review of video footage and other broadcasts of investigative material. Instead, the documents show they waited for the protective gear to reduce the risk to law enforcement.
According to law enforcement documents and video collected as part of the investigation reviewed by The New York Times.
The leader, Pete Arredondo, and others at the scene learned that not everyone inside the classrooms had died, according to documents, including a report by a police officer from the school district whose wife, a teacher, had spoken to him by phone from one of the classrooms to say she had been shot.
More than a dozen of the 33 children and three teachers originally in the two classrooms remained alive for the 1 hour and 17 minutes between when the shooting began inside the classrooms and the when four officers entered, law enforcement investigators concluded.
“People are going to ask why we’re taking so long,” a man who investigators believe to be Arredondo could be heard saying, according to a transcript of the officers’ body camera footage. “We try to preserve the rest of life.”
Investigators have been working to determine if any of those who died could have been saved, according to an official with knowledge of the effort. But there is no doubt that some of the victims were still alive and in desperate need of medical attention. A teacher died in an ambulance. Three children died in nearby hospitals, according to the documents.
The supervisors on the scene at some point became aware that there were people inside the classrooms who needed to be rescued.
“We believe there are injuries in there,” the suspected Arredondo man said several minutes before the breach, according to the transcript. “And so you know what we did, we gutted the rest of the building so we had no more, other than what’s already in there, of course.”
But even with additional documents and videos, much of the chaotic scene remained unclear, including precisely when Arredondo and other senior officers became aware of injuries inside the classrooms. It is unclear whether Arredondo or other officers inside the school learned of a child’s 911 calls inside classrooms.
Among the revelations contained in the documents: the shooter, Salvador Ramos, had a “hellish” trigger device intended to allow an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle to be fired more like an automatic weapon; some of the officers who arrived at the school first had more firepower than previously known; and Arredondo learned the identity of the shooter from inside the school and unsuccessfully attempted to contact him.
But with two officers approaching the door first, firing at it, and brushing past it, Arredondo appears to have decided that a quick breach of unprotected classrooms might have resulted in officer deaths. Instead, he focused on getting other kids out of school while he waited for additional materials.
The Robb Elementary School police response is now the subject of overlapping investigations by the Texas State Police and the US Department of Justice.
Now, more than two weeks after the shooter killed 19 children and two teachers, a clearer picture of the timeline of events and the police response has emerged.
A cascade of failures took place at the school: the local police radio system, later tests showed, did not work properly inside the building; classroom doors could not be locked quickly in an emergency; and after an initial burst of fire from the gunman, no police again approached the door for over 40 minutes, instead staying back.
According to the documents, Arredondo, who had previously focused on evacuating other classrooms, began discussing the classroom breach about an hour after gunfire began inside the building. school at 11:33 a.m. He did so after several gunshots could be heard inside the classrooms. 12:21 p.m., video footage was released.
At this time, the officers in and around the school grew increasingly impatient. “If there are children in there, we have to go,” an officer could be heard saying, according to the documents. Another replied: “Whoever is in charge will determine that.”
A team of specially trained Border Patrol agents and a sheriff’s deputy eventually entered after the shooter and killed him at 12:50 p.m.
The lack of clear orders underscored chaos and miscommunication in a response that included dozens of state and local police officers, sheriff’s deputies and federal Border Patrol agents, many of whom lived or worked nearby.
And most officers arrived with malfunctioning radios inside the school building, according to investigators’ review.
Arredondo arrived at the scene without any radio and used a cell phone for some communications. It was not clear if he had ever received an x-ray.
Arredondo did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In an interview published Thursday night by The Texas Tribune, Arredondo, whose department had jurisdiction over Uvalde schools, said he never considered himself the commander at the scene and assumed someone other had taken control of the response.
“I gave no orders,” Arredondo said. He said the inability to find the key to the classrooms was the reason for the delay in getting in and that he left his police radios behind as they would have been cumbersome.
He said that without the radios, he was unaware of the 911 calls coming from the classroom and none of the other officers in the hallway relayed that information.
Investigative documents provide additional details about the shooter and the weapons he acquired.
Before entering school, he had amassed an arsenal that included two AR-15-style rifles, accessories and hundreds of cartridges, according to the documents. He spent over $6,000.
Among the purchases was the “hellfire” trigger device, but the shooter does not appear to have successfully used it in the attack, according to an analysis by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives.
After the shooter entered the school, surveillance footage showed him walking through nearly empty blue and green hallways. He didn’t seem to fire until he got to room 111 and room 112.
We don’t know why it stopped there. He had been a student at the school as a child, and his time there may have overlapped with at least one of the teachers, Irma Garcia, who taught in room 112, according to the documents.
Arredondo was among the first officers to enter the school and approach the classrooms where the shooter was.
Two Uvalde Police Department officers, a lieutenant and a sergeant, were shot and suffered grazed wounds after trying to look out a window in one of the classroom doors, surveillance footage shows . The entire group of officers who had arrived by then sought shelter in the hallway.
According to the documents, fifteen children had come to class in room 111 that Tuesday, along with a teacher, Arnulfo Reyes. Eleven of the children died in the shooting, three were uninjured and one was injured. Reyes was shot but survived.
In room 112, which is connected to the interior by a thin blue door, there were 18 students and two teachers, Garcia and the teacher who called her husband after she was shot, Eva Mireles. Nine children were injured but survived and one was uninjured, the documents show.
This message appears to have reached a sergeant from the Uvalde Police Department, who was near Arredondo inside the school.
“There’s a teacher shot in there,” an officer could be heard telling the sergeant, according to the transcript, just before 12:30 p.m.
“I know,” replied the sergeant.
By then, heavily armed tactical officers had arrived, along with protective shields. Arredondo at that point signaled his support for entering the room, but began repeatedly asking for keys that would work on the door.
It was unclear from the transcript if anyone had tried the door to see if it was locked.
Around this time, an officer also informed Arredondo of the shooter’s name.
“Mr. Ramos? Can you hear us, Mr. Ramos? Please respond,” the leader said, according to the transcript. Ramos gave no response.
According to the body camera video transcript, Arredondo could be heard talking into a phone, bracing for a breach, and asking someone to look out the windows of one of the classrooms to see if anything could happen. being seen.
At 12:46 p.m., he agreed to enter the room. “If you’re all up for it, do it,” he said, according to the transcript.
A few minutes later, the team entered.
Ramos was in a corner near a closet, body camera footage showed. He exchanged gunfire with the officers as they entered. One of the bullets appears to have hit the shooter in the head, killing him.
Across the room, the children’s bodies lay in a motionless mass, according to the documents. A similar group of bodies lay in room 112.
Officers could be seen in video footage rushing a few children out of the room and executing Mireles. She reached an ambulance, but died before reaching a hospital.
For a time, the bodies of the fourth-year students lay where they had been taken, writhing on blood-streaked linoleum beneath a large, colorful banner. “Class of 2022,” he said. “Congratulation!”
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