Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw slammed Uvalde police’s response to the shooting at Robb Elementary, calling it an “abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”
The May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary was one of the deadliest school shootings in history, leaving two teachers and 19 students — most of whom were fourth-graders — dead, just days before summer vacation would have started.
During the Tuesday hearing in the state Senate, McCraw gave the most detailed timeline of the shooting yet, walking through it minute by gut-wrenching minute.
Police waited over an hour before confronting the shooter, and have previously evaded questions about why they hesitated. In the days after the attack, police officials claimed they did not take immediate action because they believed everyone in the classroom was already dead — despite the fact that some children were still calling 911 begging for help.
But according to McCraw, police could have stopped the shooter within three minutes of him entering the school — they simply chose to prioritize their own safety instead. McCraw particularly criticized the incident commander, Pete Arredondo, police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there were sufficient numbers of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said. “The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.
“The officers had weapons; the children had none. The officers had body armor; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none,” McCraw continued. “One hour, 14 minutes, and eight seconds — that’s how long the children waited and the teachers waited in Room 111 to be rescued.”
In trying to explain their slowness to act, police have previously claimed the classroom doors were locked and they had to wait for a key.
But the doors were never actually locked, McCraw said — in fact, the classroom doors could not lock from the inside at all.
“We’ve gone back and checked in our interviews [to ask], ‘Did anybody touch the door and try it? How about, Do you need a key?’” he said. “‘How about trying the door and seeing if it’s unlocked?’
“And of course," McCraw said, “no one had.”
Shocking details of the deadly mistakes made by Uvalde police have been coming out since the shooting, heightening calls for Arredondo to resign as police chief. Arredondo did not appear before the state Senate on Tuesday, but was expected to testify before state representatives in a closed-door hearing.
During the Senate hearing, Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt lambasted Arredondo for his absence, calling it “abominable.”
“I challenge this chief to come testify in public as to what happened here — don’t go hide in the House and talk privately, come to the Senate, where the public of Texas can ask these questions,” Bettencourt said. “We have to understand that we’re dealing with people whose lives were lost, and people that died that clearly shouldn’t have, in my opinion.”