The police were inside the Uvalde elementary school earlier than previously known
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
During a hearing in Texas today, new developments trickled out about the police response during last month's school shooting in Uvalde. The state's top law enforcement official testified before lawmakers that officers inside Robb Elementary School had enough resources to stop the gunman within three minutes. But of course, that did not happen.
Sergio Martinez-Beltran with the Texas Newsroom was at the hearing and joins us now from Austin. Welcome.
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: Hi. So I understand this was the first time that Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety - this is the first time he's ever testified in public about the shooting, right? What else did we learn from today's hearing?
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: So today's testimony was significant and maddening. According to the new timeline, from the time the police officers went into the school to the time a Border Patrol unit killed the shooter, one hour and 14 minutes went by. And as you all know, 19 kids and two teachers were killed during that time.
Today, Director McCraw said that within the first three minutes of the shooter being inside Robb Elementary, there were nine officers with pistols, rifles and body armor to confront the shooter. But instead, Pete Arredondo, who is the Uvalde Schools chief of police and was the incident commander on scene, allegedly prevented officers from going in. McCraw says that Arredondo instead called for more gunpower and rifles despite officers in the hallway of the school having what they needed.
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STEVEN MCCRAW: There's compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we've learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: McCraw says that officers responding to mass shootings are expected to rush in and confront the shooter with whatever firearm they have.
CHANG: Yeah. You mentioned Chief Pete Arredondo. I mean, one thing we had heard was that he also waited to go into the classroom where the gunman was because he believed the door was locked. But I understand that new evidence showed that was not the case, right?
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Right, and I think this is the most significant part of today's testimony. Arredondo believed the shooter had barricaded himself in one of the classrooms and that he had locked the door. So he called for a master key and a tool to get it open. But today, we learned that the way the classroom door is built, it's impossible to lock from inside, which means the door was never locked. Also, based on new evidence reviewed by the Department of Public Safety, no officer in the hallway even tried to open the door.
CHANG: What do we know about how Arredondo has been reflecting on what happened? I mean, has he made any public remarks since the shooting?
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Not really. He has only appeared in front of the press on the day of the shooting. Since then, details about his response have come out, and he has truly been in hiding for the most part. He recently talked to the Texas Tribune and claimed that he didn't consider himself the incident commander on scene. He said that he didn't bring in the police radios with him because he wanted his hands free to grab the gun and shoot. And he also told the outlet that he and the officers did all they could to save lives. But now, Texas senators really want Arredondo to appear on this panel and talk publicly about this. Here's Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston.
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PAUL BETTENCOURT: 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.
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: The family of the victims and many lawmakers are asking for transparency, and both chambers have pledged to make the facts of this tragedy public.
CHANG: That is Sergio Martinez-Beltran with the Texas Newsroom. Thank you so much.
MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.