UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The state agency investigating the mass shooting in a primary school in Uvalde determined that the commander criticized for the slow police response was not carrying a radio at the time of the massacre, a Texas state senator said Friday.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview that a Texas Department of Public Safety official told him the school district Chief of Police Pete Arredondo was without a radio during the May 24 sniper attack at Robb Elementary School which left 19 students and two teachers dead. Seventeen other people were injured.
Authorities did not say how Arredondo communicated with other law enforcement officials at the scene, including the more than a dozen officers who were waiting outside the room at one point. class where the shooter was locked up. Arredondo heads the small district department and was responsible for the multi-agency response to the shooting.
He has not responded to multiple interview requests from the AP since the attack, including a phone message left with district police on Friday.
The apparently missing radio is the latest detail to underscore concerns about how police handled the shooting and why they didn’t confront the shooter more quickly, even as anxious parents outdoors the school urged officers to enter. The Department of Justice said so will consider the response of law enforcement.
The focus shifted to the chief in recent days after Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo believed the active shooting had escalated into a hostage situation and that he had made the “wrong decision” of not ordering the officers to break through the classroom more quickly to confront the shooter.
Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, complained on Thursday that Arredondo was not informed of panicked calls to 911 from students stuck in a classroom where the shooter had been hiding. The Democrat called it a “failure of the system.”
Police radios are a crucial source of real-time communication during an emergency and, experts say, often explain how information from 911 calls is transmitted to officers in the field. It is unclear who at the scene was aware of the calls. Uvalde police did not respond to questions about the calls on Thursday.
The news emerged amid tensions between state and local officials over how police handled the shooting and communicated what happened to the public.
Uvalde shooter Salvador Ramos, 18, passed about 80 minutes inside the school, and more than an hour passed between the time the first officers followed him into the building and the time he was killed by law enforcement, according to an official calendar.
Ramos slipped through an unlocked door into adjacent fourth-grade classrooms at 11:33 a.m., authorities said. He quickly fired over 100 rounds.
Officers entered minutes later, exchanging fire with Ramos, and by 12:03 p.m. there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway outside the classroom, McCraw said. Authorities did not specify Arredondo’s whereabouts during this time.
Officers from other agencies urged the school’s police chief to let them move in because the children were in danger, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not had not been authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
A US Border Patrol tactical team used a school employee’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the shooter around 12:50 p.m., McCraw said.
Law enforcement and state officials struggled to present precise timing and details of the shooting and police response, sometimes providing conflicting information or retracting statements hours later. State police said some accounts were preliminary and could change as more witnesses are interviewed.
Gutierrez said Friday that a Texas Department of Public Safety official told him that Uvalde Area Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, a Republican, ordered the agency not to release more information. about the shooting investigation to the senator or the public.
The Department of Public Safety on Friday referred all questions about the shooting investigation to Busbee, who did not return a phone or text message seeking comment.
Gutierrez said Thursday that many people should take some of the blame in the Uvalde shooting, including the governor of Texas.
“There were mistakes at all levels, including at the legislative level. Greg Abbott has a lot of blame in all of this,” he said.
More about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting
Coronado reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; and Mike Balsamo in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
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