AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Law enforcement agencies had enough officers at the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to stop the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, the Texas public security chief said Tuesday, saying. he pronounced the police response as an “abject failure.”
Instead, police officers with guns waited for over an hour as the gunman carried out the May 24 attack that killed 19 children and two teachers.
Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified at a Senate hearing about the police’s handling of the tragedy. Delays in law enforcement response have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.
“It is clear that there was not enough training in this situation, simple and clear. Because the commander on the ground made terrible decisions,” McCraw said of Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief.
Eight minutes after the gunman entered the building, an officer reported that police had a “hooligan” crowbar they could use to break open the classroom door, McCraw said. Nineteen minutes after the gunman entered, the first ballistic shield was brought into the building by police, the witness testified.
McCraw told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Arredondo had decided to put the lives of officers before the lives of children.
The head of public security began to outline for the committee a series of missed opportunities, communication breakdowns and other errors:
— Arredondo had no radio with him.
— The police and sheriff’s radios did not work inside the school; only the radios of the Border Patrol agents on the ground worked in the school, and even those didn’t work perfectly.
— Some diagrams of the school the police used to coordinate their response were wrong.
— The classroom door could not be locked from the inside.
State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an exterior door held open by a teacher, but McGraw said the teacher had locked the door and it could only be locked from the outside.
“There’s no way she can know the door is locked,” McGraw said. “He walked straight through it.”
Questions about law enforcement’s response began days after the massacre. McCraw said three days after the shooting that Arredondo had made “the wrong decision” when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as incarcerated fourth-graders in two classrooms desperately called 911 for help and harassed parents outside the school on it. urged officers to go inside.
Arredondo later said he did not consider himself the person responsible and assumed someone else had taken control of the police. Arredondo has rejected repeated requests for comment to The Associated Press.
The 18-year-old gunner used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.
In the days and weeks following the shooting, authorities issued contradictory and inaccurate statements in the days following what happened, sometimes withdrawn hours after statements were made.
“Everything I testified today is confirmed,” McCraw assured lawmakers.
Bleiberg and Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report from Dallas.
Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting
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