The police response to the shooting at a school in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers was “an abject failure,” with a commander putting the officers’ lives before that of the children, says Texas Department director Steven McCraw of Public Safety.
During a Texas Senate hearing on the May 24 mass shooting, McCraw told lawmakers that “terrible decisions” were made by the commander on the ground and officers who arrived on the scene had not received enough training, costing them valuable time. Who may have saved lives?
“There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack on Robb Elementary was an abject failure and contradicts everything we’ve learned,” McCraw said.
The police actions after the gunman entered Robb Elementary School and started shooting were closely watched, with many parents and relatives expressing deep anger at the reaction.
One of the delays McCraw reported was searching for a key to the classroom door where the shooting occurred.
McGraw said police waited to get in while looking for a key, despite the door being unlocked, and there’s no evidence that officers ever tried to see if it was secured.
“There is no way to lock the door from the inside, and there is no way for the subject to lock the door from the inside,” McCraw said.
The Texas DPS, days after the shooting, said as many as 19 officers waited more than an hour in a hallway outside classrooms 111 and 112 before a tactical team led by the US Border Patrol finally entered.
McCraw reiterated that during the hearing on Tuesday.
“The officers had guns; the kids had none. The officers had body armor, and the kids had none. The officers had training, but the subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes, eight seconds — that’s how long the kids were waiting, and the teachers were waiting in room 111 to be rescued,” the DPS director said.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the western building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject,” McCraw added.
“The only thing that kept a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on site, who decided to put the lives of officers before the lives of children,” the director said during the hearing.
McCraw said the deputy chief, Pete Arredondo, chief of police for Uvalde’s schools, “waited for radio and guns, and he waited for shields and SWAT. Finally, he waited for a key that was never needed.”
Arredondo said earlier this month that he never considered himself the commander of the incident at the shooting site and that he had not ordered police to break through the building.
Arredondo told the Texas Tribune that he left his two radios outside the school because he wanted his hands free to hold his gun.
He’d said he needed tactical gear, a sniper, and keys to get in, and he kept himself off the doors for forty minutes to avoid firing shots.
Community members and parents of the victims urged Arredondo to resign during a passionate school board meeting on Monday, ABC News reported.