‘No one checked the door knob’: Uvalde gunman could have been taken down in three minutes, official says

AUSTIN — Classroom doors were unlocked but police officers did not check.

Officers were sufficiently armed to take down the shooter.

And the gunman who shot into a Uvalde classroom could have been taken down in as little as three minutes.

 

Each of these statements, made by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, contradicted previous public statements made by Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arrendondo, the on-scene commander during the mass shooting where 21 people were killed.

For 77 minutes, Arrendondo put off breaching the elementary school classrooms, making several claims that officers were outgunned, simply armed with pistols. He requested rifles, ballistic shields, a SWAT team and keys to unlock the classroom door.

McCraw said all of that was unnecessary and evident of a "complete failure." Rifles were immediately available on scene, the first of four ballistic shields arrived at minute 19, and the classroom door was never locked, making a need for keys unnecessary, McCraw said. He added that officers never tried to see if the classroom door was unlocked.

McGraw appeared before the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans on Tuesday, an investigative committee looking into the May 24 Uvalde shooting - the deadliest school shooting in a decade.

Arrendondo has not agreed to testify, prompting state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, to plead at one point for him to show up and address the committee.

Arrendondo said previously in public statements that he believed the gunman was an isolated subject and no kids were in harm's way, meaning it was no longer an active shooter situation. McCraw, however, said it was always an active shooter investigation, adding that “the situation was always dire, the timeline was always critical, and every second mattered.”

“The only thing stopping a hall of dedicated officers … was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said. “The officers had weapons; the children had none.”

 

McCraw was critical of Arrendondo’s actions that day, going through a detailed timeline put together using hallway and body camera footage, 911 calls and interviews of officers present in the hallway.

“There's always some reason why (officers) didn't go in, and of course a result was 1 hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds,” McCraw said. “In an active shooter environment, that is intolerable.”

Details of what occurred at Robb Elementary School on May 24 have been constantly conflicting, frustrating members of the Uvalde community, and local and state officials.

This was also not the first time McCraw’s and Arrendondo’s statements of fact have contradicted the other.

Early on in the investigation, Gov. Greg Abbott said the officers reacted quickly and efficiently, which ultimately saved lives. Then it was found that 77 minutes passed between the moment the 18-year-old gunman entered the classroom and the time he was killed by officers. Abbott said he was “livid” that he was “misled.”

According to initial reports, a school resource officer had engaged with the shooter before he entered the school, then it became clear the officer hadn’t. A teacher left the exterior door open, it was reported, but that story changed, too.

What is clear is that the exterior door the gunman used to enter the school was closed but unlocked. And while the school went into immediate lockdown as it should have, McCraw noted, that the glass windows surrounding the exterior door were not bulletproof and could have easily been broken into, allowing for someone to reach in and open the door.

McCraw added that while Arrendondo did not have his radio, as is protocol, it would not have worked within the building. McCraw said of all the law enforcement radios DPS tested, including school police radios, local police radios, sheriff department and and border patrol radios, only border patrol radios worked within the school building.

“We as the law enforcement community, when one fails, we all fail. Plain and simple,” McCraw said. “The fact is that mistakes were made, it should have never happened that way, and we can't allow that ever to happen in our profession. This set our profession back a decade.”

The hearing is ongoing and will continue through Wednesday where state lawmakers will hear testimony from others.

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