UWALDE, TX – From first A few minutes after the gunman started shooting, the police descended on Robb Elementary School. Local police from the city of Uvalde. County sheriff’s deputies. Agents of the Federal Border Service.
But no one of growing number of agencies controlled over in scores of officers on site on Tuesday of what would become the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre ten years ago.
It fell to the chief of a small The Police Department, created just four years ago to help ensure the security of Uvalde’s eight schools. His superior, Pedro Arredondo, ordered the assembled officers to hold off on storm two neighboring classes where he shot already dismissed more than 100 rounds on the walls, the door and the frightened fourth-graders locked inside with him, the state police said.
When Uvalde collapsed into holiday weekend of dark gatherings and free public kebabs, questions mounted over Chief Arredondo, role of police and is there of 21 lost lives could have been saved.
On vigil on Saturday evening hundreds of mourners met in parking space behind Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and the pastor urged them not to stop in anger. Sunday emotions will be run high again with the planned visit of President Biden.
The extent to which some law enforcement officials on the scene disagrees with in decision Keep back became more evident on Saturday like more became aware of their disappointments in protracted chaos of Shooting Tuesday.
Specially trained border guard agents, who arrived more than 40 minutes after the shooting started, shouted for permission to go in and counter the shooter. “What is your problem? they asked according to official instructed on answer.
inside classrooms, children whose classmates were lying dead around them quietly called 911 over as well as over again in times supplication with dispatchers to send the police in to save them.
Roland Gutierrez, who represents area in State Senate, said family of one of in children the dead told him that their daughter was hit by a single bullet in back and bled out death. “It possible she could have been saved if they had done their job,” Mr. Gutiérrez said.
As a result, the policemen gathered. outside won permission to enter the classroom. BUT team of tactical officers from the border guards and local police broke the door and killed 18-year-old shooter, Salvador Ramos, after he killed 19 children and two teachers inside.
decision at that time these agents, and subsequently many policemen out-of-step with practices that have been in place in departments by country for two decades since deadly Shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.
“The Columbine change wasn’t necessarily accepted by agencies across the country, and that’s what you’ve seen. in this situation,” said Chuck Wexler, head of Police Leaders Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “There are other departments in this country where there is ambiguity about it policy”.
Others, including those who provided active shooting training, advised that he was in a hurry in may not always be best an approach. “When story ended up saying he did exactly what they were taught for and based on on pragmatic experience in fog of war,” said John-Michael Keyes, whose group holds active shooter training for police and school districts in Texas speaking of Chief Arredondo.
Two officers from the Uvalde Police Department were shot through the locked classroom door. in in first minutes of in attack and fell back into the corridor with pressing wounds.
The officers were told that under the direction of Chief Arredondo the direction that the situation was evolved from one with en active shooter – whatever call for immediately attacking the shooter without even saving others children – to one with barricaded object that call for a slower approach, officials said.
According to the state police, this turned out to be a misjudgment. director Stephen McCraw: Shots could be heard from time to time in the rooms, including on ongoing 911 calls from outside children.
Part of the investigation into the shooting and the police response included whether Chief Arredondo knew about the incoming 911 calls. inoffering possible accident in communication during a chaotic and deadly eventaccording to official instructed on an investigation by the Texas Rangers.
The investigators were also find out if an attempt was made during the confrontation to take control of the incident from Chief Arredondo.
Gil Kerlikowske, former Seattle Police Chief who later served as head of US Customs and Border Protection, said he was surprised to hear that the chief of school district police force which has only six officers, was in command of the incident at the time of the shooting.
While the school grounds may have been under district jurisdiction, Mr. Kerlikowske said he expected the district to hand over control to the district immediately. city police department, which was more experience with major incidents. He said city then the police can pass to control the agency like Department of Texas of Public safety after its creation on scene.
But, Mr. Kerlikowski said, he could also see a situation where a larger agency can need come in and put pressure on on early commander to give up control.
Brandon Judd, head of Border Services Council, union agents said that in under no circumstances would Border Patrol agents attempt to take command.
“For every single training that takes place, you have an Incident Commander and that Incident Leader has the authority to take all action. decisionsMr Judd said. on Saturday. According to him, this is what they are taught. And when the agents arrive long after the situation had started, he said, it was even more it is important that they follow chain of team.
Border Patrol Agents who arrived at the chaotic scene on Tuesday were surprised by the absence of specially equipped and trained local police officers who were able of raiding classes said official habitual with federal agency response.
Uvalde Police Department, which employs about 40 sworn officers. in in recent years has used some of its members as a species of SWAT team quite often for drug seizures, according to the department’s annual reports. Did not have clear why border patrol team it was 40 minutes drive was far away instead asked lead attack.
failures in the answer is probably extended outside decisions made on one small The police department, said Mr. Gutierrez, the state senator.
“How can you blame everything on Chief of police of school district with six cops? Mr. Gutierrez said. “All failed here.”
Among first 911 calls of action movie on free on Tuesday came not from school, but from house near, nearby. shooter, who lived with his grandmother, who lived a few streets away, shot her in in face – the bullet hit her in the right eye – and ran away towards the school with his weapon, two AR-15 type rifles.
Maria and Gilberto Gallegos, two retired neighbors who we outside I have heard two gun explosions from directly through street. All of suddenly jumped the shooter out of Entrance door with backpack and duffel bag and jumped into grandma’s pickup truck.
“He is not know how to drive”said Gilbert Gallegos, head of the couple. son, who transferred your account. “He was just spinning, pushing down on gas. Finally, it is cleared out and the tires are throwing all pebbles over”.
At that moment, according to him, the gunman’s grandmother, Celia Martinez Gonzalez, was walking. out of her house her gait is steady, but her face streaming with blood.
“She is says in Spanish for my parents“Look what happened,” Gilbert Gallegos said. Miss Gallegos called 911. first at 11:33 and then two minutes later. The police arrived soon after, and then the ambulance.
Even before they arrived, he said, his parents could hear the shooting in in area of Robb Elementary School.
Chief Arredondo did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment on his department’s reaction to the shooting. There was no chief of Uvalde Police Department, Daniel Rodriguez or several other members of Department and leadership of the school district.
In many cities across the country, including New York, city policemen supervise officers who patrol schools; school districts throughout Texas have dedicated police departments that operate independently.
The Uwalde Unified School District Police Department was formed. just four years ago. Prior to this, the city Police Department provided school officers, Mickey Gerdes said. who served board president at the time. But the county and department could not overcome scheduling conflicts and cost discussions.
Mr Gerdes said part of in decision to switch was in answer to rise in school shootings and the desire to increase security in schools. (The school police officer assigned to Robb Elementary School was not on campus on tuesday attack began.)
Chief Arredondo, veteran Officer of several departments who won elections to the city council two weeks before the execution, began leading department in early 2020, a month before the pandemic hit.
He worked as a top manager official in Uvalde Police Department and for sheriff’s department in Webb County, along the border. Before returning to Uvalde, Chief Arredondo was in charge of the school district police department. in borders city of Laredo where is he reputation for be a “tough guy” in law enforcement, nothing more “from his time in County Sheriff’s Office, said Sergio Mora, political consultant in Laredo.
In his two years as Chief Arredondo, he expanded the department’s tiny ranks by adding two officers. last year.
Also during these two years, the school district conducted at least two trainings. for how to deal with with action movie opening fire in school.
Mr Gerdes, former school board President, said he knew Chief Arredondo for more than two decades. He said he feared criticism directed at his behavior. of Shooting on Tuesday reflected desire for scapegoat. “He good man,” said Mr. Gerdes. – He is a decent person.
But revelations about just how For a long time, the police officers who lingered in the classroom angered Uvalde and demanded for explanation.
Jay Martin, 48 who lives near the school, said he ran to the scene with friend after they first heard shots.
His own daughter who is now 12 years old used to be student of Eva Mireles, one of teachers are killed, he said on Saturday when he stood at the memorial of the victims in central square.
“Why so long? this is part of be a police officer, betting your life on line for someone else,” he said.
Now he added”there’s a lot of furious people”.
Francis Robles, Serge F. Kovaleski as well as Karen Zryk made a report. Jack Begg contributed research.