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Texas Matters: Uvalde, Lives Lost, Lies Told, Accountability on Hold

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 Officers responding to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde waited 73 minutes to break the classroom where the shooter was.
Screenshot from official footage from Robb Elementary School
Texas House Committee investigating the Uvalde shooting
Officers responding to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde waited 73 minutes to break the classroom where the shooter was.

Over the past year Texans experienced many up and downs but there’s no doubt the worst was on May 24th. That’s the day a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and fatally shot nineteen students and two teachers.

We are going to review what happened in Uvalde. And you would think this gets easier but it doesn’t. This is graphic and disturbing. We are going hear the 911 calls of children asking for help that doesn’t come until it’s too late.

This will be upsetting for many to hear. But this Texas Matters program is using this audio because people need to hear it so they will have a realistic idea of what happened that day at Robb Elementary, in the classroom and in the hallway. And what those children and teachers had to face.

This was the last school day before summer break in Uvalde. It was awards day. But it was also just days after the shooter’s 18-birthday when he was legally able to buy an assault rifle and then go on a killing spree after shooting his grandmother in the face.

“He’s inside shooting at the kids!”

This is 911 audio first obtained by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune.

The gunman entered the school through a door with a malfunctioning lock and opened fire.

“Get inside your room! Get inside your room!“

Police quickly arrived at the scene and after trying to charge the gunman and taking gunfire they retreated down the hallway where they would wait for over 70 minutes. Hallway surveillance video showed they had ballistic shields, body armor and heavy weaponry. The children inside the classroom only had their cellphones that they used to call for help.

“Uvalde County 911. There’s somebody banging on my school….and I’m so scared.”

The dispatch recordings show that law enforcement was informed school was occupied with students in the classrooms.

“The classrooms should be in session right now – the classrooms should be in session”

But other dispatch recordings reveal wrong information was being shared about efforts to end the school shooting.

“Be advised that 'four one' is in the room with the shooter – 'four one' is in the room with the shooter.”

"Four one" is the code name for Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo, who by some accounts was the incident commander. He was not in the room with the shooter. He was in the hallway. This miscommunication could have corrected if Arredondo had his radio with him. He later told investigators he left his radio in his car because it didn’t work in the school building.

And the 911 calls continued from inside classroom. Here is Arredondo telling officers he was aware there were victims and he didn’t want anymore.

“We already have victims in there and we don’t want any more.”

But the officers continued to wait and stack up in the hallway.

And more 911 calls came from the other side of that door.

Police officers waited more than 1 hour and 14 minutes on-site before breaching the classroom to engage the shooter.

“Shooter down – shooter down – oh man.”

Police also cordoned off the school grounds, resulting in violent conflicts between police and civilians, including parents, who were attempting to enter the school to rescue children.

“There are children in there. They don’t know how to protect themselves! Six-year-old kids in there.”

TPR’s Brian Kirkpatrick was one of the first reporters on the scene. Here's an excerpt from an interview he did that day with Erica Escamilla. She has a niece at Rob who survived the shooting. “She just put her hands over her ears and got down into a ball and she said ‘Tia, it felt like I was having a heart attack. I was so scared I didn't know what to do,’ and I just wanna say sorry to the children because they're innocent. You know? They don't know. They don't know what's really going on in the world like we do." In the days following the shooting, the prayer vigils and togetherness turned to anger. When families learned that law enforcement waited more than an hour to confront the gunman, a story that changed practically every week for months getting worse and worse.

Jesse Rizo

We spoke to Jesse Rizo whose niece Jackie Cazares was killed at Robb Elementary about how the families are holding up over the holidays.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez

Roland Gutierrez is a Texas State Senator. The Democrat represents the Uvalde area and has filed a bill to raise the age to buy an assault rifle to 21.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi