5 things to know from new transcripts, footage of Uvalde police response
Questions still remain about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two adults.
Following the tragedy, law enforcement gave inconsistent information to the public about the events of that day and the police response to the alleged shooter, Salvador Ramos.
Additional information has surfaced since the end of May about the timeline of events, and several investigations have been opened, including at the state and federal level.
This week, media reports surfaced of new transcripts and footage of the shooting.
Here are five things to know from new documents on the Uvalde police response.
1. Who is investigating the shooting
There are currently multiple ongoing investigations into the incident.
The video and transcripts that have surfaced in reports this week are being reviewed as part of the probes into the incident.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), is leading the state investigation. According to NPR, the department previously said known accounts of the events were preliminary and might change as more witnesses are interviewed. Texas DPS has been criticized for conflicting reports and a lack of transparency over what exactly took place at the school.
According to the Texas Tribune, the U.S. Justice Department, the Texas Legislature and Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee are reviewing records and interviewing witnesses to evaluate the law enforcement response.
The Justice Department said that the goal of its review of the incident is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses; identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events; and provide a road map for community safety and engagement before, during, and after such incidents.
According to the Justice Department, its review team will carry out a number of critical steps in the investigation, including developing a complete incident reconstruction, reviewing relevant documents (e.g., manuals, policies, videos, photos), conducting site visits and interviewing a wide variety of stakeholders, including law enforcement, government officials, school officials, witnesses, families of the victims and community members.
2. Security footage shows officers waiting to engage
Security footage from the incident shows that police did not try to open a door to two adjoining classrooms at Robb Elementary School in the 77 minutes that elapsed from the time gunman entered the rooms to when officers entered and he was killed, according to footage seen by the San Antonio Express News.
Uvalde School district police chief Pete Arredondo told the Tribune that he tried to open the door using keys and later used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper and keys to get inside the classroom from the hallway of the school.
However, Express News reported that, according to a law enforcement source, Arredondo was not trying to use the keys to open classrooms 111 and 112, where Ramos had locked himself in.
Footage reviewed by the Tribune taken from inside the school did not show police officers attempting to open the doors of those classrooms, either.
The report also noted that a special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety, who arrived around 20 minutes after the shooting started, asked if there were still children alive in the classrooms.
“If there is, then they just need to go in,” the agent reportedly said.
But the agent was told that officials were uncertain if there were still children alive and trapped in the classroom.
“Y’all don’t know if there’s kids in there?” the agent asked, according to the Tribune. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
He was later told that whoever was in command would determine if and when officers would go in.
3. Officers had different kinds of tools and weapons at their disposal
Responding officers waiting in the hallway of Robb Elementary outside the adjoining classrooms had access to a Halligan bar — a “crowbar-like tool” that could have open a locked door, the Tribune noted.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, officers waited in the hallways despite having “high-powered” weapons and ballistic shields and hearing the gunman continue to fire rounds.
They continued to wait even when the gunman could be heard at 12:21 p.m., 29 minutes before officers entered the classroom and killed him, according to the transcripts.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the classroom door in the Uvalde school shooting was not locked, according to the Texas public safety chief.
According to previous statements from Arredondo, the police waited for a key to open the classroom doors.
4. Who made the call to wait?
Controversy has swirled about Arredondo and his role in the law enforcement response to the Uvalde shooting.
The school police chief previously said in an interview earlier this month that he did not consider himself to be the on-scene incident commander during the shooting.
But according to the Tribune, some of the officers on the scene believed Arredondo was in command. And at times, he was reportedly issuing commands — information that directly contradicts his assertion.
Arredondo called dispatch after he entered the school. Footage shows that about 11 officers had entered the building and at least two were seen in the video carrying rifles.
But according to a transcript reviewed by the Tribune, Arredondo asserted they didn’t have the firepower to confront the shooter.
“OK, we have him in the room,” he said, according to the Tribune. “He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot. He’s in the room. He hasn’t come out yet. We’re surrounded, but I don’t have a radio.”
He also commented to the dispatcher where the SWAT teams should set up.
“Yes and they need to be outside of this building prepared,” he said. “Because we don’t have enough firepower right now. It’s all pistols and he has an AR-15. If you can get the SWAT team set up, by the funeral home, OK, we need — yes, I need some more firepower in here because we all have pistols and this guy’s got a rifle. So I don’t have a radio. I don’t have a radio. If somebody can come in —”
The New York Times reported that law enforcement on the scene from at least 14 agencies did not go into the classrooms, despite active gunfire and 911 calls from children trapped in the room with Ramos.
Arredondo’s lawyer declined to comment further on the Tribune story, citing the ongoing investigation.
5. What happened after the shooter was killed
According to footage reviewed by the Tribune, a fisheye camera in the hallway captured the moments after the gunman’s death.
The footage shows a single first responder in the hallway, equipped with surgical gloves, who waited for officers to leave the scene and then directed waiting staff to enter classrooms 111 and 112.
The camera also captured ambulance backboards and gurneys and children being brought out of the classrooms with no vital signs.
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