Police Chief Who Led Uvalde School Shooting Response Didn’t Have Radio at the Scene
Senator Roland Gutierrez said Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo did not know students were calling 911 from inside the classroom.
UPDATED POST 6/6/22: Two law enforcement sources told the Austin American-Statesman that Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief who oversaw law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School shooting, arrived at the scene without his radio and other critical equipment, possibly impairing his ability to effectively coordinate the response.
The two officials were briefed on the matter but were not authorized to speak publicly. The revelation confirms Senator Roland Gutierrez’s earlier claim that Arredondo did not know students were making calls from inside the classroom as they were locked inside with the gunman.
Gutierrez said the communications failures were partly due to the responding law enforcement agencies contracting with different radio companies rather than being on one uniform network. He also said it remains unclear whether the information from the 911 calls was relayed to law enforcement on the scene, including 19 officers who were stationed in the hallway outside where the shooter was barricaded with students and teachers for nearly 80 minutes.
The New York Times reported Friday that Arredondo used a cell phone to call a police landline to tell officers about the shooter. He told his department that the gunman had an AR-15 but was contained and to send backup and surround the school.
At least one school district police officer serving under Arredondo knew people were inside. Officer Ruben Ruiz spoke with his wife, fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles, after she had been shot, Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell told The New York Times.
“He’s outside hearing his wife: ‘I’m dying,'” Mitchell said, adding he did not know whether Ruiz relayed details of the phone call to Arredondo.
Mireles died shortly after the gunman was shot and killed by border patrol tactical agents.
ORIGINAL POST 6/3/22: The commander overseeing police response to the Robb Elementary School shooting was not informed multiple students had placed 911 calls from inside the classroom while they were trapped with the gunman, according to a Texas senator.
During a news conference Thursday, Senator Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) said Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo did not receive word of the pleas for help from victims, reports AP. Gutierrez said the calls were relayed to the Uvalde Police Department, which operates separately from the district police.
“I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls,” he said, calling the lack of communication a “system failure.”
Blame for the breakdown in communication during the shooting seems to be shifting day to day. Arredondo has been widely criticized by state leaders and safety experts for his response. Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw denounced Arredondo’s decision to treat the situation as a “barricaded suspect” rather than an active shooter situation.
On Tuesday, DPS Chief Communications Officer Travis Considine said Arredondo stopped cooperating with the investigation and had not responded to DPS requests for two days regarding a follow-up interview. The following day, Arredondo contrarily told CNN he’s been speaking regularly to DPS investigators and has “been on the phone with them every day.”
Gutierrez told reporters he wants to know more about what was happening inside the school, including the identities of the 19 officers who were stationed in the hallway outside the classroom. McCraw reportedly told Gutierrez he would receive that information on Friday, according to CNN.
Gutierrez said while no single person or entity is fully responsible for the attack, Governor Greg Abbott should accept some of the blame for failures in the police response.
“There was error at every level, including the legislative level,” he said. “Greg Abbott has plenty of blame in all of this.”
On Wednesday, Abbott ordered the state to conduct in-person school district security audits, including unannounced “intruder detection” visits to campuses “to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped,” according to AP.
Abbott also asked lawmakers to convene a legislative committee to examine and make recommendations on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety and more.”