UVALDE, Texas — The commander at the scene of a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was not informed of panicked 911 calls coming from students trapped inside the building as the massacre unfolded, a Texas state senator said Thursday.
Roland Gutierrez claimed that pleas to help made by Robb Elementary School students on May 24, did not get through to Chief Pete Arredondo of the school district police. The Democratic senator called it a “system failure” that calls were going to the city police but were not communicated to Arredondo.
“I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls,” Gutierrez said during a news conference, adding that no single person or entity was fully to blame for the massacre.
He said that Republican Governor. Greg Abbot must accept a lot of responsibility for police responses that failed.
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“There was error at every level, including the legislative level. Greg Abbott has plenty of blame in all of this,” Gutierrez said.
Robb Elementary School was the most deadly school shooting in almost a decade. Nineteen children were killed and two educators were injured in the attack. Sixteen others were hurt. The funerals of the victims began on Monday.
Abbott ordered that the state conduct security audits in school districts this week. He also asked for top legislators to form a committee to discuss school safety and mental health.
February 2023 is the date for Texas’ next legislative session. Gutierrez was one of several legislators who urged Abbott (who is currently running for reelection) to convene a special session to address the aftermath.
Salvador Ramos (18 years old gunman) spent about 80 minutes inside school. It took more than an hour between the time the first officers led him in and the moment he was shot dead by police.
State officials as well as law enforcement have been unable to provide an exact timeline or details about the shooting. Police also responded in a conflicting manner, with some rescinding statements and sometimes providing contradictory information. The state police stated that some of the accounts they have received were only preliminary. This could change as new witnesses are interviewed.
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Arredondo received a lot of attention. Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo believed the situation had turned into hostage situation and made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to attempt to breach the classroom as 911 calls were being made to the outside.
Gutierrez said it’s unclear if any details from the 911 calls was being shared with law enforcement officers from multiple agencies on the scene.
“Uvalde PD was the one receiving the 911 calls for 45 minutes while officers were sitting in a hallway, while 19 officers were sitting in a hallway for 45 minutes” Gutierrez said. “We don’t know if it was being communicated to those people or not.”
However, the senator stated that the Commission on State Emergency Communications informed him that school district police chiefs didn’t know.
“He’s the incident commander. He did not receive (the) 911 calls,” Gutierrez said.
Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez has not returned phone calls or emails.
In 2019, a gunman opened fire on seven victims and injured more than two dozen others during an attack in Odessa Texas. Authorities said at the time that 36-year-old Seth Aaron Ator called 911 before and after the shootings but a failure in communication between agencies — they were not all operating on the same radio channel — slowed the response. Ator covered approximately 10 miles when officers killed and shot him.
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