A Uvalde Teacher Whose 11 Students Were Killed In The Mass Shooting Called The Cops “Cowards”

Arnulfo Reyes, who was shot but survived, said he "will never forgive" the police for waiting over an hour to confront the gunman during the Uvalde school massacre.

ABC News

A teacher who survived the Uvalde school shooting, but whose 11 students were killed, slammed the police as "cowards" for their failures in responding to the attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

"They sit there and did nothing for our community," Arnulfo Reyes said in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday. "They took a long time to go in. … I will never forgive them."

Reyes, who taught third and fourth grade at Robb Elementary, spoke to ABC News from the hospital, where he has undergone five surgeries to recover from multiple gunshot wounds.

That morning, Reyes said he and his students had been expecting a fun, celebratory day; final tests were complete, and summer vacation was right around the corner. There was little on the schedule that day besides giving out awards and watching the animated Addams Family movie.

But then the gunfire began. When he heard a loud noise, Reyes told the children to go under their desks and pretend to be asleep, not clear what was happening. But then, "When I turned around ... I just saw him," he said.

EXCLUSIVE: Arnulfo Reyes, teacher wounded in Uvalde shooting, to @arobach: “I will not let these children and my coworkers die in vain. I will not. I will go to the end of the world to not let my students die in vain.” https://t.co/QVFp3mciRo

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The gunman shot Reyes in the arm, then continued shooting all over the classroom. He later shot Reyes again, this time in the back, piercing his lung.

"I had no concept of time," Reyes said. "When things go bad, it seems like eternity. The only thing that I can say is I felt like my blood was like an hourglass."

When police finally entered the classroom — more than an hour after the shooting began — all 11 students in Reyes's classroom were dead.

"I feel so bad for the parents because they lost a child," Reyes said. "But they lost one child. I lost 11 that day, all at one time."

Like many schools across the US, Robb Elementary had readied itself for an event like this, practicing with active shooting drills, including one just weeks earlier. But even so, not everything went according to plan, Reyes said. He never got an emergency alert on his phone from the school district, and his classroom door — which he'd previously complained didn't properly shut and lock — remained unfixed that day.

But even if the school had followed every protocol, nothing could have prepared them for such a massacre — particularly in light of a series of failures from authorities.

In the weeks since the shooting, Uvalde police have faced widespread condemnation for how they responded to the attack. Officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman, later claiming that it was because they believed all the children were dead already. But the children were still alive, and several even called 911 from inside the classroom.

Instead, police confronted terrified parents outside the school, videos showed, at times physically shoving them, as they begged officers to enter the school and rescue their children. In one video, a parent can be heard asking why police weren't saving their kids, to which an officer responded, "Because I'm having to deal with you!"

One mother, Angeli Gómez, told CBS News that police handcuffed her when she tried to go into the school herself to save her two sons. After convincing an officer to uncuff her, she said, she jumped a fence and ran inside, managing to get them out safe. Since then, Gómez said she received a phone call from law enforcement warning her not to speak about her experience to the media.

Law enforcement officials have since acknowledged how the incident was mishandled, with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw calling it the "wrong decision" not to confront the shooter earlier. The Department of Justice has announced it will conduct a review of the police response.

It's been just two weeks since the shooting, and Reyes is still recovering. But already, he said, he feels deeply motivated to push for the kind of gun control laws that would prevent tragedies like this from happening as often as they do.

"If you want to buy a gun, you want to own a gun, that's fine," he told ABC News. "But the age limit has to change. And I think that they need to do more background checks on it."

"The only thing that I know is that I won't let these children and my coworkers die in vain," he said. "I will go to the end of the world to make sure things get changed. If that's what I have to do for the rest of my life, I will do it."

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