UVALDE – Body camera videos from Uvalde police officers show in real time the response to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School.
Sunday evening, hours after the Texas House released its report along with 77 minutes of silent video from inside the school, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin released nearly three hours of additional footage from the bodycams of seven Uvalde PD officers.
The videos show a response starting at about 11:35 a.m. from a handful of Uvalde PD and Uvalde CISD police. They are soon joined by a throng of officers from a number of additional agencies including Uvalde sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Border Patrol, Department of Public Safety, U.S. Marshals and even Texas game wardens. In total, 376 officers responded to the scene.
The videos show moments of urgency interspersed with long stretches of waiting, with a clear lack of direction and communication among the responders.
The videos in this article were released Sunday by the City of Uvalde. They show body cam footage from officers at Robb Elementary School and at the shooter’s grandparents’ house in the 500 block of Diaz Street. The City of Uvalde blurred faces of children and witnesses in the videos.
The first officers on the scene rush to the hall outside the classroom where the shooter is holed up inside. They retreat minutes later after the suspect fires at them.
“Am I bleeding?” Officer Canales, who appears to have been grazed by a bullet, asks a fellow officer?
“That’s my wife’s classroom,” the officer responds.
He is Ruben Ruiz — the husband of slain teacher Eva Mireles.
Twenty minutes later, Ruiz is seen on Officer Justin Mendoza’s body cam looking distraught and saying, “she says she’s shot, Johnny.” He is then escorted outside the building.
Multiple times, in several of the videos, officers can be heard saying that Uvalde CISD Chief Pete Arredondo is in charge, but officers on the scene seem unclear about their roles in the response.
“Chief Arredondo did not actually exercise tactical incident command over the BORTAC team, nor did the BORTAC team seek instruction from Chief Arredondo,” the report found.
But the report didn’t put the blame directly on Arredondo, saying there were numerous failures among all agencies.
“Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its Investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”
The officers frequently are heard communicating that the shooter was “contained.”
On Sgt. Coronado’s body cam, he can be heard telling other officers who arrived on the scene just to stay outside because he was worried about overcrowding the hallway.
“You’re fine. There are plenty of officers (inside),” he said.
On the same bodycam footage, at 11:57 a.m., nearly 30 minutes after the shooter fired more than 100 rounds inside a classroom, an officer asks whether anyone was hit by gunfire?
Coronado responds, “No. We don’t know anything about that. No kids are...”
His response is incomplete but another officer is heard saying, “Everything is closed. The kids are not in there.”
Less than two minutes later the same officers rush to the side of the school where other officers are evacuating children and teachers out of windows.
The body camera videos show discussions concerning the possibility of “blue on blue” gunfire with so many armed officers inside the hallway. There are many comments about a lack of keys and ballistic shields. And comments about waiting for BORTAC, the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit, who did eventually breach the classroom and kill the suspect.
“Are we just waiting for BORTAC or what’s going on,” one officer asks.
Another responds, “They tell me DPS Rangers possibly have a unit coming in.”
Officer Justin Mendoza announces to officers in the hallway at 12:10 p.m. — “BORTAC is coming in 30 minutes.”
Two minutes later an officer hears a dispatcher say that a child called 911 and advised he was in a room full of victims.
“Full of victims!” an officer announces just outside the school door. “The room is full of victims.”
The news trickles into officers in the hallway at 12:13 p.m.
Mendoza’s video shows officers lined up in a hallway, putting on gear, readying medical kits and waiting for what they expect to be an imminent breach of the classroom.
“They say they’re about to breach the window,” one officer says at 12:31.
“Who is?” another officer asks.
It would be 20 more minutes before any first responders reach those victims.
At 12:50 p.m., BORTAC officers finally breached the classrooms and killed the shooter.
The House committee didn’t “receive medical evidence” to show that police breaching the classroom sooner would have saved lives, but it concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue.”
In a statement on Sunday, McLaughlin said the city’s acting police chief on the day of the Robb Elementary School massacre, Lt. Mariano Pargas, had been placed on administrative leave. The city will conduct an internal investigation into the Uvalde Police Department’s response.
Pargas is the second law enforcement officer to be placed on leave in response to the shooting.
Arredondo has faced criticism in the two months since the shooting and has largely been blamed as the on-site commander by Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials. He was placed on leave by the school district superintendent earlier this month.
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You can read McLaughlin’s full statement below:
“Today, the City of Uvalde is doing three things in response to reviewing the first factual and complete report on the Robb tragedy.
First, to echo the sentiment of the Legislative committee’s report, we agree that the entire Uvalde community has already waited entirely too long for answers and transparency. We are releasing all body cameras from Uvalde police officers taken during the incident. We held off on releasing these videos at the District Attorney, Christina Mitchell’s, direction. However, with the release of the school district’s hallway video, we believe these body camera videos provide further, necessary context. Additionally, as Ms. Mitchell’s direction was to all agencies, including DPS, to hold all videos relating to the shooting until a final report was issued, we believe this restriction has not been enforced. The audio/video has been edited to protect the victims. The families of Robb School victims have been given the opportunity to review the video being released today.
Second, the City has placed Lt. Mariano Pargas on administrative leave. Lt. Pargas was the acting Chief of Police for the City of Uvalde the day of the shooting. The City has a responsibility to evaluate the response to the incident by the Uvalde Police Department, which includes Lt. Pargas’ role as the acting Chief. This administrative
leave is to investigate whether Lt. Pargas was responsible for taking command on May 24th, what specific actions Lt. Pargas took to establish that command, and whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved and other possible policy violations.
We agree with the Committee’s review of the incident, there was failure of command. However, we have further questions as to who was responsible for taking command as each agency there had senior level commanders on site. We want to know which agency took what specific actions to take command, and where did the critical breakdown occur.
The City of Uvalde will be conducting an internal investigation regarding our police department’s actions and our policies and procedures. I have told you this would happen since day one. We are currently waiting on DPS to release UPD officers’ official statements, taken immediately after the incident, as these are critical to our own internal investigation. The City has selected Jesse Prado, an expert in the field, to conduct the internal investigation. As soon as DPS releases the reports we have requested, Mr. Prado will begin his review and assessment. That will also include a specific review of Lt. Pargas’ actions as Acting Chief of Police that Day.
As Mayor of Uvalde, the City only has any authority over its own police force. Which is why I support the City’s decision to place Lt. Pargas on administrative leave and conduct a full internal investigation. However, it is imperative that each agency onsite at Robb School that day commits to the same process and investigates their highest ranking, onsite officers’ actions. The City and its Police Department strive for transparency and are done waiting for the District Attorney and DPS to value our community’s need for answers.”
*The Associated Press contributed to this report.