Takeaways from Texas DPS director’s testimony about the Uvalde shooting, gunman and police response

UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo ‘decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,’ McCraw said

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety revealed on Tuesday perhaps the most extensive, official details about the Uvalde school shooting to the public so far since last month’s massacre.

Col. Steve McCraw testified for hours at a special Texas Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, calling the response to the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead an “abject failure.”

In the days since the shooting at Robb Elementary School, delays in the law enforcement’s response have become the focus of the investigation, as authorities have released often-conflicting information on the timeline.

But McCraw on Tuesday gave much-asked-for revelations about the timeline, mistakes and missed opportunities.

Specifically, he pointed blame squarely at Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief and on-site commander, saying he made “terrible decisions.”

Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo was sworn-in to Uvalde City Council Tuesday in private. (KSAT)

Here are the takeaways from McCraw’s testimony from Tuesday:

‘Abject failure’: Rampage could’ve been stopped in first 3 minutes

McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” as officers with rifles waited outside for more than an hour to approach the gunman.

Three minutes after Ramos entered the building, there was a “sufficient number” of armed officers wearing body armor that could have stopped the rampage, McCraw said.

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was [Arredondo], the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said.

Arredondo, who has claimed he didn’t know he was the commander on scene, didn’t have a police radio with him, McCraw said.

Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt challenged Arredondo to testify in public and said he should have removed himself from the job immediately. He angrily pointed out that shots were heard while police waited in the hallway.

“There are at least six shots fired during this time,” he said. “Why is this person shooting? He’s killing somebody. Yet this incident commander finds every reason to do nothing.”

Police had shields, rifles, body armor in school long before confronting gunman

The decision by police to hold back went against much of what law enforcement has learned in the two decades since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in which 13 people were killed in 1999, McCraw said

“You don’t wait for a SWAT team. You have one officer, that’s enough,” he said.

He also said officers did not need to wait for shields to enter the classroom. The first shield arrived less than 20 minutes after the shooter entered, according to McCraw.

Also, eight minutes after the shooter entered, an officer reported that police had a “hooligan” crowbar that they could use to break down the classroom door, McCraw said.

Officers with rifles instead stood and waited in a hallway for over an hour before they finally stormed the classroom.

“I don’t care if you’re in flip-flops and Bermuda shorts,” he said.

McCraw later said that 91 DPS troopers were at Robb Elementary School during the response.

READ NEXT: Officers in Uvalde were ready with guns, shields and tools — but not clear orders

Classroom doors weren’t locked, police didn’t need keys

McCraw said that the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, shot his grandmother at their home and then drove to the campus.

Ramos crashed his truck in a ditch at around 11:28 a.m. and made his way to the west end of the school. He entered the school at 11:33 a.m., made his way to adjoining rooms 111 and 112 and began shooting in the classrooms with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle.

State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an exterior door that had been propped open by a teacher. However, McCraw said that the teacher had closed the door, but unbeknownst to her, it could be locked only from the outside.

The gunman “walked straight through,” McCraw said.

McCraw said on Tuesday that the classroom doors were unlocked and officers never attempted to open them until they entered the room and killed him at around 12:50 p.m., more than 75 minutes after officers initially entered the school.

Arredondo previously told the Texas Tribune that he used several keys to try to unlock the door to the classroom, but McCraw said Tuesday no key was needed.

“I have great reasons to believe it was never secured,” McCraw said the door. “How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?”

McCraw added that there were requests to fix the door prior to May 24, but it is unknown when those requests were made.

Police and sheriff’s radios did not work within the school; only the radios of Border Patrol agents on the scene worked inside the school, and even they did not work perfectly, he said.

Gunman had joint bank account with grandmother

McCraw said that Ramos had a joint bank account with his grandmother.

Ramos worked odd jobs and at a fast food restaurant, and investigators believe he had been saving money and used those funds to open the bank account.

Ramos legally bought two AR-15-style rifles guns, including the one used in the attack, just days after his 18th birthday in Uvalde, authorities previously said. Ramos also bought at least 375 rounds of ammunition.

Those purchases cost several thousand dollars.

McCraw said that Ramos had not had much practice with the rifle, which he bought a few days before the shooting.

Since Ramos didn’t drive, he had asked someone to take him to a shooting range after purchasing the guns, but “that didn’t happen,” McCraw said.

Ramos allegedly engaged in animal cruelty

McCraw said there were reports that Ramos engaged in animal cruelty.

One of those cases involved Ramos allegedly carrying a bag of dead cats, but McCraw didn’t believe that information had been presented to law enforcement authorities.

“Animal cruelty is something to look for,” McCraw said, when dealing with warning signs for violence.

McCraw said that some teachers had raised concerns about Ramos, claiming that he was “scaring” them and “dressing like a school shooter.”

The Texas House is holding separate hearings for its own investigative committee meetings, but those testimonies have taken place largely behind closed doors in executive sessions.

However, the Texas Senate committee’s hearings are held in public and will continue on Wednesday.

The Texas Senate hearings are taking place as Texas Senate Democrats once again urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to address gun violence.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, whose district includes Uvalde, has repeatedly urged the Republican governor to take action.

Gutierrez is not on the To Protect All Texans special committee.

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. He is an amateur triathlete, enjoys playing and watching soccer, traveling and hanging out with his wife.

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