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Uvalde police chief defends law enforcement response to Robb Elementary shooting

In his first public comments since the shooting, Uvalde police chief says he didn’t consider himself the commanding officer at the scene

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Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Dario Lopez-Mills, Associated Press

After growing criticism about the slow police response to a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month, a local police chief broke his silence on Thursday to defend the actions of law enforcement on the scene.

What’s happening: Pete Arredondo, police chief for Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, gave his first extensive public comments on Thursday, saying he did not consider himself to be the commanding officer at the scene of the massacre, according to The Guardian.

  • Arredondo spoke to The Texas Tribune, saying he spent more than an hour in the hallway of the school, trying dozens of keys to get through a locked door and into the classroom where the gunman was.
  • “The only thing that was important to me at this time was to save as many teachers and children as possible,” he said.
  • Arredondo said he wasn’t told about multiple 911 calls that came from within the classroom during the 77 minutes before the gunman was killed, according to The Texas Tribune. He said he didn’t bring his radios with him because he wanted both hands free to hold his gun if he encountered a gunman.

Police response in Uvalde: Details about the timeline at Robb Elementary School have been slow to surface, and local law enforcement has faced criticism about its response to the active shooter.

  • In separate reporting on Thursday, The New York Times reviewed video footage and documents showing that “heavily armed officers” waited for more than an hour to confront the gunman, even after supervisors were told that some trapped inside the classroom were alive and needed medical attention.
  • According to the Times, documents show that Arredondo and others were aware that some people were still alive inside the classrooms, including one school district officer who spoke by phone with his wife, a teacher inside who had been shot.
  • Although some of the officers were armed with long guns, they waited for more protective equipment to lower the risk of confronting the gunman — who was armed with an AR platform rifle he bought the week prior for his 18th birthday. The rifle was modified with a “hellfire” trigger device to allow it to be fired like an automatic weapon.
  • Family members of some of the victims have said their loved ones may have survived if police had breached the classroom door earlier, including the family of Xavier Lopez, 10, who was shot in the back and died after being rushed to a hospital.
  • “He could have been saved,” his grandfather Leonard Sandoval said, according to The New York Times. “The police did not go in for more than an hour. He bled out.”