- Pete Arredondo, chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, had stopped at least 19 officers from breaking into the school
- Steven McCraw, director of Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo mistakenly believed the gunman was contained and no longer a threat
- Two federal sources told NBC that teams of border patrol agents from their tactical division were on the scene by 12:00-12:15pm, but told to wait
- They stood around for 30 minutes before taking matters into their own hands and deciding to storm the school
- Arredondo is yet to appear at any press briefings but officials are facing increasingly angry questions about their handling of the attack
PUBLISHED: 13:18 AEST, 28 May 2022 | UPDATED: 19:10 AEST, 28 May 2022
Federal officers overruled local Texas police to storm the Uvalde school where a gunman was killing children – thirty minutes after being told not to go into the building a report has claimed.
The armed officers from Border Patrol and Homeland Security arriving on the scene of the Texas school shooting were told by the local police chief not to go into the building, according to a report, but after a maddening 30 minutes overruled him and stormed the site.
The first 911 call was received at 11:28am, and it swiftly became clear that the school was under serious attack: units from across the region dashed to the site. They included the elite border patrol tactical unit BORTAC, and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), who were on the scene between noon and 12:15pm.
The units were told by Arredondo to wait, and not enter, according to two senior federal law enforcement officers, who spoke to NBC. McCraw said that Arredondo mistakenly believed the gunman was cornered, and no longer a threat.
At first they obeyed, the sources said.
But after 30 minutes, in desperation, as children were repeatedly ringing 911 from inside their classes and begging for help, they began making a ‘stack’ formation to enter the building.
They needed a key to open the door – it remains unclear why – and the gunman emerged from a classroom closet firing at the tactical agents entering the room, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told The Washington Post.
The gunman was shot dead at 12:50pm by a member of the border patrol, who was wearing only a baseball cap – which was shredded by bullets.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief Pete Arredondo was in charge and mistakenly thought there were no other kids alive in the room once the shooter had barricaded himself inside
The revelation about the officers being held back came shortly after the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, expressed his fury at the conflicting and inconsistent version of events being given by law enforcement.
Abbott, who on Wednesday said the officers charged into the building and did everything they could, said he was lied to.
‘I was misled,’ Abbott said on Friday, addressing a press conference in Uvalde about Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School which saw 19 students and two teachers murdered by Salvador Ramos, 18, who was eventually shot dead by cops.
‘I am livid about what happened. I was on this very stage two days ago, and I was telling the public information that had been told to me in a room just a few yards from where we are write now.
‘I wrote hand notes in sequential order.
‘When I came out on that stage and told the public what happened, it was a recitation of what everyone told me.
‘As everybody has learned, the information I was given turned out – in part – to be inaccurate.
‘I am absolutely livid about that.’
Abbott said that law enforcement leaders must ‘get to the bottom of every fact, with absolute certainty.’
He said it was ‘inexcusable’ that families may have suffered from inaccurate information, and ordered law enforcement to ‘get down to every second what happened, and explain it to the public – but most importantly, to the victims.’
Abbott on Wednesday had defended the actions of the police and other local officials, emphasizing their heroics and insisting they prevented the situation from being far worse.
Yet questions have been rapidly mounting about the actions of law enforcement – in particular, why they waited outside the school for an hour while Salvador Ramos, 18, was free inside the building to murder 19 children and two teachers.
Initially police said that Ramos was wearing body armor and was confronted by an armed guard: on Thursday, they admitted that neither of those facts were true.
They said Ramos was barricaded in a classroom, but it emerged on Wednesday night that the authorities had to get a key to open the door – leading to urgent questions as to why they didn’t break it down.
And they said the delay in entering the school was because they were waiting for negotiators – an excuse that Tucker Carlson, the avowedly pro-law enforcement Fox News host, ridiculed on Thursday night.
Officials admitted on Friday that nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classrooms during the attack, believing any potential victims inside were already dead.
‘Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,’ Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference.
The on-site commander ‘was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize’ to get into the classroom, McCraw said.
McCraw said there was a barrage of gunfire shortly after Ramos entered the classroom where they killed Ramos but that shots were ‘sporadic’ for much of the 48 minutes while officers waited outside the hallway.
He said investigators do not know whether or how many children died during those 48 minutes.
Ramos entered the classroom and locked the door at 11.34am.
In the first few minutes, he fired more than 100 shots inside classrooms 111 and 112.
He carried on shooting ‘sporadically’ until 12.21pm, and it wasn’t until 12.50pm that police eventually gained access to the classrooms with a key from the janitor.
Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including a girl who pleaded: ‘Please send the police now,’ McCraw said.
‘With the benefit of hindsight, from where I am sitting now – of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There is no excuse,’ McCraw said.
A law enforcement official who spoke anonymously to The New York Times said that the border patrol agents who arrived on the scene had been puzzled as to why they were being told not to enter the school and engage the gunman.
McCraw asserted that Pete Arredondo, the district chief, made a miscalculation in assuming the active shooter situation had become a barricade event.
Arredondo, 50, become the focus of backlash from parents wondering if their children could have been saved.
Arredondo, who was born in Uvalde and was elected to city council just days before the massacre, has had an unremarkable career as a cop.
He started his law enforcement career as a 911 dispatcher for Uvalde’s town police department in 1993, and over the course of the next 20 years, worked his way up to eventually assume the role of assistant police chief at the department in 2010.
Experts have described the decision to wait for back up as ‘outdated’ and ‘disgusting’.
‘Waiting an hour is disgusting. If that turns out to be true, then it is a disgusting fact,’ said Sean Burke, a retired school resource officer from Massachusetts who now is the president of the School Safety Advocacy Council.
Texas police said on Thursday night that they didn’t immediately rush in to find the shooter on Tuesday’s attack after being shot at because they feared they might be killed, and even suggested that they deliberately locked the gunman in the classroom – where he murdered 21 people – in order to trap him.
Department of Safety spokesman, Lt. Chris Olivarez, made the astonishing comments during an appearance on CNN on Thursday night.
He was being challenged by Wolf Blitzer over why the first officers who responded to the shooting retreated after Ramos shot at them with his AR-15.
They then waited an hour for tactical SWAT teams to take him out, leaving him alone in a classroom with the 19 fourth graders and two teachers who he murdered.
‘Don’t current best practices, Lieutenant, call for officers to disable a shooter as quickly as possible, regardless of how many officers are actually on site?’ Blitzer asked.
He replied: ‘In the active shooter situation, you want to stop the killing, you want to preserve life.
‘But also one thing that, of course, the American people need to understand is that officers are making entry into this building. They do not know where the gunman is. They are hearing gunshots. They are receiving gunshots.’
He then appeared to try to take credit for the gunman being locked in the classroom with the kids for an hour – including some he shot at the start of the rampage who later died in the hospital – claiming it saved other lives.
Police initially said that the gunman barricaded himself inside the classroom and that they had trouble gaining access to the room, and one unnamed law official anonymously spoke out to say SWAT teams had to wait for a different school staff member to bring them a key to the class.
‘At that point, if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed, and at that point that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.
‘So they were able to contain that gunman inside that classroom so that he was not able to go to any other portions of the school to commit any other killings,’ Lt. Olivarez said.
Comment: Except there were still children still alive inside needing the police to act
TIMELINE OF UVALDE SHOOTING – COPS WAITED OUTSIDE THINKING EVERYONE IN CLASS WAS DEAD WHILE SHOOTER FIRED MORE ROUNDS
11.28: Gunman crashes truck then walks to the school parking lot where he hides behind a vehicle
11.31: Gunman is shooting from the vehicle. Multiple shots fired.
11.32: School resource officer who arrives in a patrol car after hearing 911 call about truck crash drives past the shooter
11.33: Gunman enters the school through open door
11.33: Begins shooting into room 111/room 112. He shoots more than 100 rounds.
11.35: Three police officers enter the same door as the suspect from the Uvalde PD. They were later followed by another four.
Seven officers on scene. Three initial officers went directly to the door and got grazing wounds from him while the door was closed.
11.37: Another 16 rounds fired
11.51: Police sergeant and USB agents arrive
12.03: Officers continue to arrive in the hallway. As many as 19 officers in that hallway at that time
12.15pm: BORTAC (SWAT) members arrive with shields
12.21pm: Gunman fires again
12.50pm: Breach the door using keys from the janitor and kill gunman
911 CALL TIMELINE
12.10pm: Same person called back and advised ‘there are multiple dead’
12.13pm: Calls again
12.16pm: Calls back and says there are 8-9 students alive
12.19pm: Another person from room 111 calls. She hung up when another student told her to hang up
12.21pm: Hear on the 911 call that 3 shots were fired
12.26pm: 911 call lasting 21 seconds – initial caller called back, the child. They were told to stay on the line
and stay quiet. She told 911 ‘he shot the door’
12.43pm: Student asks ‘please send the police now’
12.46pm: She said she could hear the police next door
12.50pm: Shots fired
12.51pm: Very loud, officers are moving children out of the room
Surgeons at the hospital in Uvalde have also suggested that the delay in responding to the shooting may have cost lives.
It remains unclear exactly how many children were in the classroom when the shooter opened fire, how many were killed immediately and how many were still alive but injured when police arrived.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital received two kids who had died by the time they got to the hospital.
Now, doctors are highlighting the importance of treating gunshot wounds as soon as they happen.
‘You can’t wait until patients go to a trauma center.
‘You have to act quickly,’ said Dr Ronald Stewart, the senior trauma surgeon at the University Hospital in Antonio.
He added that uncontrolled bleeding was the top cause of deaths among gun shot wound victims and that it can happen in as little as five minutes.
Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, officers across the nation have been advised not to wait for backup and to proceed into the school to find the shooter.
Instructions from the Texas Police Chiefs Association says: ‘The first two to five responding officers should form a single team and enter the structure.’
Why that advice was ignored in Uvalde is among the many aspects of the slow response that are now under investigation.
Another is why police falsely claimed at first that the shooter exchanged gunfire with a school resource officer before he even made it to the classroom.
On Thursday night, Olivarez said that was the information police received.
Carlson on Thursday night led the accusations, calling their conflicting and frequently changing explanations ‘BS’ and describing their handling of the tragedy as ‘a scandal’ and ‘a moral crime‘.
The Fox News host night admitted that he was normally strongly supportive of police, and rarely criticized their conduct.
But, he added: ‘No matter how pro law-enforcement you are, we are, there’s only so much B.S. you can take in the face of a tragedy like this.’
Carlson said he was horrified by reports of an hour-long gap between the gunman entering the school and his being shot dead.
He ridiculed Victor Escalon, regional director for Texas’s department of public safety, for saying that the police were waiting for negotiators to arrive before storming the school.
He said that a mother’s claim that she begged officers to go into the building, was pinned down by police, wrestled herself free and ran into the school herself to rescue her own children was ‘a scandal’ if true.
And he demanded to know why the Texas authorities changed their story: why they initially said that an armed security guard shot at Ramos, and why they said he was barricaded inside, when it now emerges that the officers needed a key to get into the classroom.
‘So two days after this massacre, authorities are slowly admitting that everything they told us was untrue,’ Carlson said.
‘So the second the shooting starts anywhere at any time, things get very confusing. They used to call it the fog of war, it’s entirely real. It’s hard to figure out exactly what happened when people start getting killed.
‘But in the big questions it’s very obvious immediately.
‘Was there a school resource officer who exchanged fire with the gunmen?
‘That’s not something you would imagine. That either happened or it didn’t and you would know right away if it happened or it didn’t.
‘It didn’t happen, but they said it did happen. That’s a lie. Why did they lie?’