One month has passed since a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, and a series of new revelations about the May 24 shooting have done little to alleviate Uvalde residents’ frustrations as they heal.
State and local officials have been working for weeks to reconcile incomplete and, at times, contradictory reports on the shooting and the questionable police response. And, while multiple investigations are ongoing, including one by the US Department of Justice, some critical facts remain elusive following one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
Some details were revealed this week when Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw testified before the Texas state legislature about one of the investigations. McCraw, who presented an updated timeline of events based on video surveillance and police communications, called the police response a “abject failure” and provided what appeared to be the most comprehensive account of what happened during the deadly rampage.
According to McCraw, there were enough officers and equipment on the scene within three minutes to “neutralize” the 18-year-old shooter. He also made the startling claim that the door to the gunman’s classroom had been left unlocked all along, despite officers waiting more than an hour for a key to open it.
“1 hour, 14 minutes, and 8 seconds That’s how long the kids and teachers waited in rooms 111 and 112 to be rescued “McCraw stated. “The on-scene commander waited for radios and rifles while they waited. After that, he waited for shields. He then waited for SWAT to arrive. Finally, he waited for a key that would never be needed.”
Police officers arrived almost immediately, but were unable to overcome logistical and communication challenges in time to stop the carnage. Officers had difficulty communicating because their radios had no reception inside the building, contributing to a leadership vacuum that hampered the police response, according to McCraw.
McCraw reserved his harshest criticism for Pete Arredondo, the embattled school district police chief who was the incident commander on the scene. Arredondo was described by McCraw as “the only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering” the classrooms and killing the gunman.
McCraw’s condemnation of Arredondo adds to the growing chorus of outrage over the May 24 police response. Survivors’ and first responders’ emotional testimonies before Congress and in the press have cast a critical eye on law enforcement.
“They’re cowards,” teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who lost 11 students and was shot multiple times, told ABC News exclusively. “They sat and did nothing to help our community. They took their time getting in… They will never be forgiven by me.”
Meanwhile, after weeks of community members calling for Arredondo’s resignation, the Uvalde school superintendent placed him on administrative leave on Wednesday.
Many Uvalde residents say the shifting narrative has instilled a deep distrust in authorities, while the lack of information has provided little comfort to victims’ families. A number of family members are hoping that the county medical examiner’s upcoming report will provide answers to some of their most pressing questions.
Demands for investigative documents soared this week, sparking a new round of infighting among officials.
On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin accused McCraw of “having an agenda, and it’s not to present a full report on what happened and to provide factual answers to the families of this community.”
On Wednesday, a state senator from Uvalde, Texas, filed a lawsuit against McCraw’s agency, requesting access to its investigative records. McLaughlin’s criticism was not met with a response from the Department of Public Safety.
McCraw told the state legislature on Tuesday that the district attorney for Uvalde, Christina Busbee, had told him to stop communicating with lawmakers and the press. McCraw pledged to release investigative records and video surveillance footage of the shooting once Busbee approves their release.