After an 18-year-old man walked into Robb Elementary School and opened fire inside a fourth-grade classroom, a negotiator at a funeral home across the street desperately dialed any telephone number available to contact him, according to the mayor.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin recalled the harrowing moments after he learned about the active shooter during a Wednesday interview with The Washington Post and Telemundo San Antonio.
McLaughlin said he rushed to the school 15 minutes after “the first call.” He stayed at the Hillcrest Funeral Home with “the negotiator,” who wasn’t identified.
“His main goal was to try to get this person on the phone,” he said. “They tried every number they could find,” however, the gunman didn’t answer.
McLaughlin said he only communicated with the negotiator during the ordeal, as officers and parents gathered outside and as the shooter barricaded himself in the classroom for more than an hour.
The police response time has since come under scrutiny as authorities continue to release often-conflicting details in the May 24 massacre that killed 19 students and two of their teachers.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the commander at the scene, believed it was a hostage situation and not an active shooter situation, according to Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Meanwhile, the 911 dispatcher heard pleas for help from people inside the school, starting at 12:03 p.m. That was exactly 30 minutes after the shooter entered the building and 47 minutes before he was shot dead.
McCraw said during that time, the 911 dispatcher received several calls from people inside adjoining rooms 111 and 112, where he fired more than 100 rounds.
Those calls did not make their way to the mayor or the district police chief, according to McLaughlin and Sen. Roland Gutierrez.
McLaughlin said they also did not hear shots being fired across the street.
In a news conference on Thursday, Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, said it was a “system failure” that the calls were going to city police but not the district police.
“I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls,” Gutierrez said, adding that no single person or entity was fully to blame for the massacre.
McLaughlin said he hasn’t been in touch with Arredondo and insisted that “local authorities have not lied to anyone.”
His comments were in response to Gov. Greg Abbott saying that he was “misled” about the response by law enforcement.
The mayor also said there needs to be a compromise for gun laws going forward, like background checks.
“Why should any of us be afraid of expanding background checks? There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t have anything to hide,” said McLaughlin, who spoke last week of the city’s problems with mental health.