The police chief in charge during the Uvalde, Texas school massacre didn’t know that terrified kids locked inside a classroom with the gunman were calling 911 during the slaughter, a state lawmaker said Thursday.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said at a news conference that the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District didn’t have access to the 911 calls when he made the decision to wait to take out 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos.
“This is probably one of the worst investigations I’ve seen of just about any crime scene in the last I-don’t-know-how-many years, in the state of Texas and beyond,” Gutierrez told reporters of the Robb Elementary School massacre that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
The city of Uvalde Police Department had access to the calls – including one where a girl begged a dispatcher to “please send cops now!” – but that information didn’t reach the school district’s top cop Pete Arredondo, who was on the on-scene commander during the carnage on Tuesday.
“I’m telling you not because I want to blame the entity. There was error at every level, including legislatively,” said Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde in the state Legislature. “We need transparency and that hasn’t happened here.”
It was more than an hour from the time Ramos arrived at the school to the moment a tactical unit fatally shot him in adjoining classrooms.
Gutierrez said he asked state law enforcement for a list of where the 19 officers were standing in a hallway outside two interconnected classrooms where the gunman had locked himself in with his victims. The lawmaker said he was told by the Texas Department of Public Safety he’d get that list tomorrow and would share it with the public.
He has also requested radio transmissions of the 911 calls, he said – but he’s not sure they’ll be given to him.
“There is enough blame to go around. There was human error and systemic failure,” Gutierrez said.
“My biggest concern is that there were 19 officers for 45 minutes who didn’t do anything.”
Ramos crashed a pickup truck in a ditch near the school at about 11:28 a.m. and popped out with an AR-15 style assault rifle. He fired shots at the building and two bystanders at a funeral home across the street before he walked into an unlocked door at about 11:33 a.m., officials have said.
The first officers arrived minutes later but were pushed back by gunfire. Backup soon arrived — with an estimated 19 officers gathered inside the building by about 12:03 p.m.
But police didn’t open the door using a janitor’s key and fatally shoot Ramos until 12:50 p.m., officials have said. The lag has led to questions about whether lives could’ve been saved if cops acted sooner.
Steven McCraw, director of the state Department of Public Safety, has said Arredondo’s decision not to breach the door of the classroom was “the wrong decision.” The US Department of Justice is now probing local cops’ response to the massacre.
The latest from the Texas school shooting
Gutierrez had previously said that a parent of one of the young victim’s had told him that her child bled out but might have lived if she received medical treatment sooner.
“We have all failed. There’s been a lot of failure,” Guiterrez said Thursday. “To the one family I’ve talked to, whose daughter was shot one time only and likely bled out … I could only say I’m sorry.”