Revelations this week show cops with armor and high-powered weapons doing nothing while a gunman kills children in a classroom feet away.
On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Over the course of 75 minutes, during which police stood idle nearby, he was left alone to kill 19 children and two teachers. On Tuesday, the Texas Senate held a special hearing on law enforcement’s response to the tragedy. Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw did not mince words, calling their actions “an abject failure.”
Over the course of the hearing, new information regarding how law enforcement handled the mass shooting was revealed — and each detail is more horrific and disturbing than the last. The accounts range from cowardice to incompetence, but all display the ineptitude of law enforcement officials who failed to protect their community.
Perhaps the most painful detail shared by McCraw was the fact that the door to the classroom where the shooter had entered was not locked. This, despite the fact that police had claimed it was locked and that they required a janitor to get a key to unlock it for them. Pete Arredondo, the police chief of the Uvalde school system, had claimed that officers tried to break down the door and find a key to unlock it themselves, but that story is now being called into question, as it appears no effort was ever made to even try to open the door. In the end, it took an hour and 15 minutes for law enforcement to finally breach the classroom and confront the shooter, but McCraw said Tuesday that they could have done so in as little as three minutes.
Instead, officers stood in the hallway outside of the classroom for more than an hour, during which time they heard periodic gunfire from the shooter. Security footage from inside the school revealed that those officers were equipped with high-powered rifles and ballistic shields, despite initial claims made by law enforcement that they were outgunned.
The entire response by police, according to McCraw’s testimony, was a series of failures that cost children their lives. Arredondo, the commanding officer who led the police response to the shooting, did not have a radio on him during the response — something he admitted to in an interview with The Texas Tribune — and thus was unable to coordinate with state and federal law enforcement on the scene. Police also used the wrong maps of the school while coordinating their response, McCraw said, resulting in law enforcement pursuing the wrong locations.
In McCraw’s assessment, these failures fall on Arredondo. “The only thing stopping all dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers ahead of the lives of children,” he testified.
Officers on the scene questioned the decision-making of leaders, asking why they were told to wait, according to a report from The Texas Tribune. Local ABC affiliate station KVUE reported that one officer could be overheard in body camera footage saying “if there are kids in there, we’ve got to go in.” Ultimately though, they listened to orders and did not intervene despite multiple 911 calls from students inside the classroom coming in. It was teachers, McCraw said, who deserve praise for working quickly to respond to the crisis and lock down the school, adding their actions saved lives.
Everything about law enforcement’s response to Uvalde has revealed just how cops fail us. From the inaction during the event to the immediate response and explanations laden with apparent lies, it’s clear once more that the police are more interested in protecting themselves than the public.