The Texas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans heard testimony on Monday from a key official regarding the tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde.
The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Col. Steven McCraw, whose office is conducting one of several investigations into the law enforcement response to the incident, spoke about what went wrong in the law enforcement response to the school shooting.
“We do know this: there’s compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre,” he said.
“Mistakes were made. It should have never happened that way,” said McCraw. “And we can’t allow that ever to happen in our profession. This set our profession back a decade, is what it did.”
When asked why his agency did not assume command of the Uvalde shooting when they arrived, the DPS director responded that the person in control is generally the “ranking official of the agency that has jurisdiction.”
Due to that practice, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo was in command of the shooting response at Robb Elementary School last month.
As reported by The Dallas Express, his leadership and actions have come under intense scrutiny in the weeks since the massacre, particularly his decision to delay storming the classroom.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject. The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw stated.
Early reports from officials said the gunman entered two adjacent classrooms armed with a rifle, shot children and teachers, and barricaded himself inside, preventing responding officers armed with handguns from neutralizing him for at least 40 minutes, as reported by The Dallas Express.
However, McCraw stated on Tuesday that the doors were likely not locked because most of the doors at the school could not lock from the inside.
“I have great reasons to believe [the door] was never secured,” said McCraw.
Officers on the scene never checked to see whether the classroom door was locked, according to the DPS director. They waited for a set of keys to be located and for more equipment to arrive before attempting to enter the classroom.
McCraw asserted that the officers had enough equipment to react and should not have waited.
The DPS director also revealed that the portable radios given to first responders did not work inside the school.
“Cellphones work; it’s just the portable radios that first responders have didn’t — the irony of ironies,” McCraw said.
Arredondo arrived at the school without a radio, according to prior reports. Local police and Border Patrol radio communication signals were lost inside the school, according to McCraw. Those factors eventually led Arredondo and others to start talking with dispatchers on their cellphones.
McCraw believes either the radio system should be replaced or internal technical capabilities extended and that radio equipment in every school in the state should be examined.
McCraw also recommended that all state troopers be provided with a specialized “go-bag” containing a shield and breaching tools to handle an emergency such as the one in Uvalde. He also said they should be fully trained to use the equipment.
Footage from body cameras and the inside of the school will be released at some point, according to McCraw. The committee will listen to additional testimony in the next hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.