Uvalde police response was “great failure”

Austin, Texas (AP) – The Texas State Police Chief said law enforcement response to the Uvalde school shooting was a “major failure,” telling lawmakers there were enough police and firefighters on the scene to stop it. the gunman three minutes later. entered the building.

Colonel Steve McCraw also said police would have found the door to the classroom where the perpetrator was unlocked if they had taken the trouble to check it.

On the contrary, rifle police stood in a corridor for over an hour, waiting partially for more weapons and equipment, before finally invading the classroom and killing the armed, ending the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers. . .

“I do not care if you wear flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, you go in,” McCrow, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the Senate on Tuesday in a shocking testimony.

The classroom door, as it turned out, could not be locked from within the plan, according to McCraw, who also said a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock had been broken. However, there is no indication that officers tried to open it during the confrontation, McCraw said. He said police were waiting for the keys.

“I have great reason to believe he was never insured,” McCraw said of the door. “How about testing the door and seeing if it is locked?”

Delays in responding to law enforcement at Robb Primary School have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations. The deposit was scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

McCraw turned on Pete Arredondo, Uvalde’s school district police chief, who McCraw said was responsible, saying: give his life officers before the lives of children “.

Arredondo made “terrible decisions,” said McCraw, who lamented that the police response “ran our business a decade back.”

Arredondo said he did not consider himself responsible and assumed that someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He has repeatedly denied requests for comment from the Associated Press.

The police chief testified for about five hours Tuesday in a closed-door Texas panel hearing that was also investigating the tragedy, according to the committee chairman.

Members of the Senate who heard the last details reacted angrily, with some denouncing Arredondo as incompetent and saying the delay cost lives. Others pressured McCraw because state soldiers on the scene did not take responsibility. McCraw said the soldiers had no legal authority to do so.

The head of public security presented a timetable stating that three officers with two rifles entered the building less than three minutes behind the gunman, an 18-year-old with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Several more officers arrived a few minutes later. Two of the police officers who entered the corridor early were grazed by gunfire.

The police decision to stop was contrary to much of what law enforcement had learned in the two decades since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that killed 13 people in 1999, McCraw said.

“You are not expecting a SWAT team. “You have an officer, that’s enough,” he said. He also said that officers do not have to wait for shields to enter the classroom. The first shield arrived less than 20 minutes after the shooter entered, according to McCraw.

Eight minutes after the perpetrator entered, a police officer said police had a heavy-duty crowbar that they could use to break down a classroom door, McCrew said.

The head of public safety spent nearly five hours providing a clearer picture of the massacre, describing a number of other missed opportunities, communication errors and mistakes based on a survey of about 700 interviews. Among the mistakes:

– Arredondo did not have a radio with him.

– The police and sheriff’s radios did not work inside the school. Only the radios of the Border Patrol agents on stage did and did not work perfectly.

– Some school diagrams used by the police to coordinate their response were wrong.

State police initially said the gunman, Salvador Ramos, entered the school through an outside door opened by a teacher. However, McCraw said the teacher had locked the door, but unknowingly, it could only be locked from the outside. The gunman “went straight,” McCraw said.

The gunman was well acquainted with the building, having attended the fourth class in the same classes where he carried out the attack, McCraw said. Ramos never contacted police that day, the public security chief said.

Senator Paul Bettencourt said the whole condition of lockdown and sniper training is useless if school doors cannot be locked. “We have a culture where we think we have trained an entire school for lockdown… but we set a condition for failure,” he said.

Bettencourt challenged Arredondo to testify in public, saying he should have resigned immediately. He angrily pointed out that shots were heard while the police were waiting.

“There are at least six shots fired during this period,” he said. “Why is this person shooting? He is killing someone. However, this incident commander finds every reason to do nothing.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Tuesday that the city has “specific legal reasons” for not answering questions in public or publishing archives. “There is no cover-up,” he said in a statement.

Later that day, the Uvalde City Council voted unanimously against granting leave to Arredonto, who is a council member, to appear in public. Relatives of the victims of the shootings had asked the city leaders to fire him.

“Please, please, get this man out of our lives,” said Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo Garza’s grandmother.

After the meeting, the mayor withdrew McCraw’s testimony, blaming Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Safety had repeatedly published false information about the shooting and had taken on the role of its own officers.

He called the Senate hearing a “clown show” and said he had heard nothing from McCroy about the involvement of state soldiers, although McLaughlin said their number in the school corridor at points during the massacre was higher than any other service. law enforcement.

Questions about the answer to law enforcement began days after the massacre. McCraw said three days later that Arredondo had made the “wrong decision” when he chose not to invade the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even when trapped fourth-graders in two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help and distressed parents outside. from the school begged the police to go inside.

An hour after the perpetrator first crashed his truck outside the school, Arredondo said, according to McCraw’s schedule: “People will ask why we are so late. We try to save the rest of our lives. “

But McCrew said Tuesday that the time it took for police officers to enter the classroom was “unbearable.”

Police have not found any red flags in the disciplinary files of the Ramos school, but they learned through interviews that he was cruel to the animals. “He was walking with a bag of dead cats,” McCraw said.

In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and inaccurate reports of what happened. But McCraw assured lawmakers: “Everything I have tabled today is being confirmed.”

McCraw said that if he could make just one recommendation, it would be for more training. He also said that every state patrol in Texas must have shields and tools for breaking doors.

“I want every soldier to know how to break through and have the tools to do so,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle and Terry Wallace in Dallas, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and photographer Eric Gay in Austin contributed to this report.

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Find more AP coverage of Uvalde school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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