Archives for category: Guns in Schools

The sheriff of Madison County, North Carolina, reacted to the massacre of students in Uvalde, Texas, by putting an AR15 in every one of the six schools in the district. The guns will be locked in a safe, and breaching tools will be nearby. So don’t come into one of those schools to kill little children!

Imagine the scenario. A gunman with an AR15 shoots his way into the school, as the deranged killer at the Sandy Hook school did a decade ago. He blasts through the door, kills everyone he sees. Meanwhile, the designated defender goes to the safe, breaks it open with the breaching tool, and takes out the AR15.

By that time, the killer has had enough time to mow down the children in at least two classrooms.

The problem in Uvalde wasn’t the lack of weapons. Dozens of heavily armed officers hung out in the corridor outside the classrooms for over an hour. They had guns. What they lacked was courage, brains, and leadership.

CORRECTION! In the original post, I erroneously said that Adrian Fontes lost in a race for Secretary of State in a race against a Trumper. In fact, Fontes won the Democratic primary and will face a Trumper in November. His opponent insists that Trump won the 2020 election despite multiple recounts and even a Republican-sponsored recount (by the “cyber ninjas”).

Adrian Fontes recently ran for Secretary of State in Arizona and won the Democratic primary. He will face off against a Trumper in the fall.. He is a former Marine and combat veteran. In this post on MSNBC, he carefully explains the real meaning of the Second Amendment. The Constitution and the amendment are not ambiguous.

Fontes will face off in November against Mark Finchem. Finchem attended the January 6 insurrection.

“This is the defining race for our Republic,” said Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder, who oversaw elections in 2018 and, most notably, 2020. “It will let the world know whether we will surrender to foolish conspiracies or whether we will support our Republic that Benjamin Franklin so eloquently said needs to be kept.”

Fontes carried nine of the 15 counties, including Maricopa, where he served as county recorder from 2017-2021. The Democratic race revolved around the need to defend Arizona’s election process and protect democracy. But late in the campaign, questions arose about Bolding’s ties to a nonprofit he runs and whether he had properly distanced himself from its political support for his campaign.

Fontes touted himself as the only candidate who could take on “a Trump sycophant and Jan. 6 insurrectionist,” a clear reference to Finchem….

Finchem, a state lawmaker, has maintained the election was fraudulent, and rode this platform of election denial and reform to a resounding 17.5 percentage point margin of victory in the GOP primary on Tuesday night, besting three opponents. He has called his win a mandate.

Finchem wants to eliminate early voting, a position the Arizona Republican Party is pushing in a case before the state Supreme Court, and along with Lake is asking a federal judge to bar the use of electronic machines in the Nov. 8 election.

The Republican Finchem continues to support Trump’s lies and efforts to destroy democracy.

I started receiving these mailing recently. I don’t know why.

Please click on the links below to see how easy it is to buy a killing machine. No background check. No age limit. No waiting period. On the Internet, a killer’s bonanza. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s latest decision about the right of every person to “bear arms” almost anywhere (not in courtrooms!), I could buy one or more of these weapons, strap it on, and carry it to the grocery store, to a movie theater, or to a restaurant. That’s what the Founding Fathers wanted, say the six extremists on the High Court. I disagree. The Founding Fathers wanted a land where people could live in freedom and peace, not in terror.

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Peter Greene reports the selling of heavily clad bunkers for classrooms to protect children against killers.

We have a problem. There are 400 million guns owned by the population. One of our major political parties is adamantly opposed to any restraint on buying and selling more guns.

Other societies insist on background checks, proof of training, safes for guns, and a dozen other ways to minimize the misuse of these deadly weapons. Even the most tepid effort to limit gun ownership will be loudly opposed in this country. The recent bipartisanship deal on gun control won’t change any of that.

The recent assassination of the former Prime Minister of Japan, which has rigid limits on gun ownership, was held up by gun lovers as proof that gun control doesn’t work. Japan had a total of ten gun deaths last year.

So, Greene points out, since we do nothing to restrict gun ownership, we create a response to the problem. Buy bunkers for children in classrooms. This could be a billion-dollar business.

PS: then there’s the case of the Uvalde elementary school. Just-released videotape showed that the police, fully armed, stayed out of the classrooms where the killer was, for 77-78 minutes. As children and teachers died, the police held back. Why? They didn’t need a key. They didn’t need more weapons. They didn’t need more armor. They needed courage.

Laugh or cry? I report. You decide.

The Republican lawmaker who drafted the training curriculum that schools would have to follow to allow teachers in Ohio to carry guns owns a gun training business that seemingly fits all the required steps in the bill.

Ohio schools could start arming any staff member as soon as mid-fall, but the training requirement has raised concerns about the involvement of a specific senator.

Although he denies any wrongdoing, state Sen. Frank Hoagland, a Republican from Mingo Junction, is being accused by critics of drafting the bill so his business could benefit financially.

Hoagland helped with the rewrite of House Bill 99, which allows any school board in Ohio to choose to arm school staff members with up to 24 hours of training.

The senator owns a business called S.T.A.R.T., which represents Special Tactics and Rescue Training. It is a firearm training and threat management business.

While the bill was being heard in the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee, hundreds came to oppose the bill. Throughout the entire hearing process, more than 350 people submitted testimony against the bill, while about 19 testified in favor.

One of those who testified in support was Dinero Ciardelli, the CEO of S.T.A.R.T. He did not identify himself as being with the company, but he did not legally have to. Hoagland just so happens to be the Chair of the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee, so he watched his colleague testify in favor of his bill.

The story: probably not a conflict of interest. On Mars.

Until recently, teachers in Ohio were allowed to carry weapons to school but they had to take the same 700 hours of instruction as peace officers in the state.

The New York Times reported that a new Ohio law allows teachers to carry weapons with no more than 24 hours of training.

Teachers and other school employees in Ohio will be able to carry firearms into school with a tiny fraction of the training that has been required since last year, after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law on Monday.

While employees have for years been allowed to carry guns on school grounds with the consent of the local school board, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that state law required them to first undergo the same basic peace officer training as law enforcement officials or security officers who carry firearms on campus — entailing more than 700 hours of instruction.

That ruling, Mr. DeWine said on Monday, had made it largely impractical for Ohio school districts to allow staffers to carry firearms.

Under the new law, a maximum of 24 hours of training will be enough for teachers to carry guns at school, though the local board will still need to give its approval. Twenty-eight states allow people other than security personnel to carry firearms on school grounds, with laws in nine of those states explicitly mentioning school employees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Polls in recent years show that a majority of Americans, and a large majority of teachers, oppose the idea of arming teachers…

The governor emphasized that local school districts would still have the ability to prohibit firearms on school campuses. “This does not require any school to arm teachers or staff,” he said. “Every school will make its own decision.”

Last week, Justin Bibb, the mayor of Cleveland, said his city would continue to ban teachers and other non-security employees from carrying guns in schools.

Ohio’s new law, which moved suddenly and swiftly through the State Senate after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, passed on June 1 along roughly partisan lines, with two Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against it. The bill passed the House in November, also on a nearly party-line vote; one Republican joined the Democrats in voting against it.

In a speech on the Senate floor, State Senator Niraj Antani, a Republican, dismissed the “crocodile tears” of lawmakers who saw the bill as dangerous, arguing that armed teachers would deter school shootings and calling the bill “probably the most important thing we have done to prevent a school shooter in Ohio.”

A sizable opposition against the bill had grown against it during its journey through the Legislature. Hundreds packed into committee rooms for the bill’s hearings, with all but two or three speakers testifying against it. The opposition included gun control groups as well as teachers, school board members, police union representatives and police chiefs.

Robert Meader, who recently retired as commander of the Columbus, Ohio, Division of Police, called the training requirement in the bill “woefully inadequate,” arguing that it would “cause harmful accidents and potentially even needless deaths.”

The bill is the second major gun bill that Mr. DeWine, a Republican, has signed into law this year. The first, which went into effect on Monday, eliminates the requirement for a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Imagine this: a school shooter enters the building armed with an automatic assault weapon. Will teachers have equally powerful weapons? How terrifying will school be if teachers are carrying assault weapons? Terrifying not only for students, but for teachers and administrators.

Since the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, blame has been shifted to the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, who led a force with six officers. He didn’t have a radio, he didn’t know that children in the locked classrooms were calling 911 for help, he didn’t have a key to the classrooms. More than 100 local, state, and federal law officers converged on the scene, and it was assumed that he was in charge. My own guess, from very far away, was that there was no command structure, and no one knew who was in charge. Nineteen officers congregated outside the connected classrooms where the killer was left alone for more than an hour. The Texas Tribune, a small, independent journal, got the first interview with the school district police chief.

Only a locked classroom door stood between Pete Arredondo and a chance to bring down the gunman. It was sturdily built with a steel jamb, impossible to kick in.

He wanted a key. One goddamn key and he could get through that door to the kids and the teachers. The killer was armed with an AR-15. Arredondo thought he could shoot the gunman himself or at least draw fire while another officer shot back. Without body armor, he assumed he might die.

“The only thing that was important to me at this time was to save as many teachers and children as possible,” Arredondo said.

The chief of police for the Uvalde school district spent more than an hour in the hallway of Robb Elementary School. He called for tactical gear, a sniper and keys to get inside, holding back from the doors for 40 minutes to avoid provoking sprays of gunfire. When keys arrived, he tried dozens of them, but one by one they failed to work.

“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo said. Finally, 77 minutes after the massacre began, officers were able to unlock the door and fatally shoot the gunman.

In his first extended comments since the May 24 massacre, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, Arredondo gave The Texas Tribune an account of what he did inside the school during the attack. He answered questions via a phone interview and in statements provided through his lawyer, George E. Hyde.

Aside from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which did not respond to requests for comment for this article, Arredondo is the only other law enforcement official to publicly tell his account of the police response to the shooting.

Arredondo, 50, insists he took the steps he thought would best protect lives at his hometown school, one he had attended himself as a boy.

“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff,” Arredondo said. He noted that some 500 students from the school were safely evacuated during the crisis.

Arredondo’s decisions — like those of other law enforcement agencies that responded to the massacre that left 21 dead — are under intense scrutiny as federal and state officials try to decide what went wrong and what might be learned.

Whether the inability of police to quickly enter the classroom prevented the 21 victims — 19 students and two educators — from getting life-saving care is not known, and may never be. There’s evidence, including the fact that a teacher died while being transported to the hospital, that suggests taking down the shooter faster might have made a difference. On the other hand, many of the victims likely died instantly. A pediatrician who attended to the victims described small bodies “pulverized”and “decapitated.” Some children were identifiable only by their clothes and shoes.

In the maelstrom of anguish, outrage and second-guessing that immediately followed the second deadliest school shooting in American history, the time Arredondo and other officers spent outside that door — more than an hour — have become emblems of failure.

As head of the six-member police force responsible for keeping Uvalde schools safe, Arredondo has been singled out for much of the blame, particularly by state officials. They criticized him for failing to take control of the police response and said he made the “wrong decision” that delayed officers from entering the classroom.

Arredondo has faced death threats. News crews have camped outside his home, forcing him to go into hiding. He’s been called cowardly and incompetent.

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Neither accusation is true or fair, he says.

“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” Arredondo said. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”

Arredondo’s explanations don’t fully address all the questions that have been raised. The Tribune spoke to seven law enforcement experts about Arredondo’s description of the police response. All but one said that serious lapses in judgment occurred.

Most strikingly, they said, by running into the school with no key and no radios and failing to take charge of the situation, the chief appears to have contributed to a chaotic approach in which officers deployed inappropriate tactics, adopted a defensive posture, failed to coordinate their actions, and wasted precious time as students and teachers remained trapped in two classrooms with a gunman who continued to fire his rifle.

Hyde, Arredondo’s lawyer, said those criticisms don’t reflect the realities police face when they’re under fire and trying to save lives. Uvalde is a small working-class city of about 15,000 west of San Antonio. Its small band of school police officers doesn’t have the staffing, equipment, training, or experience with mass violence that larger cities might.

His client ran straight toward danger armed with 29 years of law enforcement experience and a Glock 22 handgun. With no body armor and no second thoughts, the chief committed to stop the shooter or die trying.

77 minutes

One of Arredondo’s most consequential decisions was immediate. Within seconds of arriving at the northeast entrance of Robb Elementary around 11:35 a.m., he left his police and campus radios outside the school.

To Arredondo, the choice was logical. An armed killer was loose on the campus of the elementary school. Every second mattered. He wanted both hands free to hold his gun, ready to aim and fire quickly and accurately if he encountered the gunman.

Arredondo provided the following account of how the incident unfolded in a phone interview, in written answers, and in explanations passed through his lawyer.

He said he didn’t speak out sooner because he didn’t want to compound the community’s grief or cast blame at others.

Thinking he was the first officer to arrive and wanting to waste no time, Arredondo believed that carrying the radios would slow him down. One had a whiplike antenna that would hit him as he ran. The other had a clip that Arredondo knew would cause it to fall off his tactical belt during a long run.

Arredondo said he knew from experience that the radios did not work in some school buildings.

But that decision also meant that for the rest of the ordeal, he was not in radio contact with the scores of other officers from at least five agencies that swarmed the scene.

Almost immediately, Arredondo teamed up with a Uvalde police officer and began checking classrooms, looking for the gunman.

As they moved to the west side of the campus, a teacher pointed them to the wing the gunman had entered. As Arredondo and the Uvalde police officer ran toward it, they heard a “great deal of rounds” fired off inside. Arredondo believes that was the moment the gunman first entered adjoining classrooms 111 and 112 and started firing on the children with an AR-15 rifle.

Arredondo and the Uvalde officer entered the building’s south side and saw another group of Uvalde police officers entering from the north.

Arredondo checked to see if the door on the right, room 111, would open. Another officer tried room 112. Both doors were locked.

Arredondo remembers the gunman fired a burst of shots from inside the classroom, grazing the police officers approaching from the north. Some of the bullets pierced the classroom door, and others went through the classroom wall and lodged in the wall adjacent to the hallway, where there were other classrooms. The officers on the north end of the hallway retreated after being shot, but they weren’t seriously injured and returned shortly after to try to contain the gunman.

Because the gunman was already inside the locked classroom, some of the measures meant to protect teachers and students in mass shooting situations worked against police trying to gain entry.

Arredondo described the classroom door as reinforced with a hefty steel jamb, designed to keep an attacker on the outside from forcing their way in. But with the gunman inside the room, that took away officers’ ability to immediately kick in the door and confront the shooter.

Arredondo believed the situation had changed from that of an active shooter, to a gunman who had barricaded himself in a classroom with potential other victims.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials and news outlets have reported that the shooter fired his gun at least two more times as police waited in the hallway outside the classrooms for more than an hour. And DPS officials have said dispatchers were relaying information about 911 calls coming from children and teachers in the classrooms, begging the police for help.

Arredondo said he was not aware of the 911 callsbecause he did not have his radio and no one in the hallway relayed that information to him. Arredondo and the other officers in the hallway took great pains to remain quiet. Arredondo said they had no radio communications — and even if they’d had radios, his lawyer said, they would have turned them off in the hallway to avoid giving away their location. Instead, they passed information in whispers for fear of drawing another round of gunfire if the shooter heard them.

Finding no way to enter the room, Arredondo called police dispatch from his cellphone and asked for a SWAT team, snipers and extrication tools, like a fire hook, to open the door.

Arredondo remained in the hallway for the rest of the ordeal, waiting for a way to get into the room, and prepared to shoot the gunman if he tried to exit the classroom.

Arredondo assumed that some other officer or official had taken control of the larger response. He took on the role of a front-line responder.

He said he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building. DPS officials have described Arredondo as the incident commander and said Arredondo made the call to stand down and treat the incident as a “barricaded suspect,” which halted the attempt to enter the room and take down the shooter. “I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”

Officers in the hallway had few options. At some point, Arredondo tried to talk to the gunman through the walls in an effort to establish a rapport, but the gunman did not respond.

With the gunman still firing sporadically, Arredondo realized that children and teachers in adjacent rooms remained in danger if the gunman started shooting through the walls.

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“The ammunition was penetrating the walls at that point,” Arredondo said. “We’ve got him cornered, we’re unable to get to him. You realize you need to evacuate those classrooms while we figured out a way to get in.”

Lights in the classrooms had also been turned off, another routine lockdown measure that worked against the police. With little visibility into the classroom, they were unable to pinpoint the gunman’s location or to determine whether the children and teachers were alive.

Arredondo told officers to start breaking windows from outside other classrooms and evacuating those children and teachers. He wanted to avoid having students coming into the hallway, where he feared too much noise would attract the gunman’s attention.

While other officers outside the school evacuated children, Arredondo and the officers in the hallway held their position and waited for the tools to open the classroom and confront the gunman.

At one point, a Uvalde police officer noticed Arredondo was not wearing body armor. Worried for the chief’s safety, the Uvalde officer offered to cover for Arredondo while he ran out of the building to get it.

“I’ll be very frank. He said, ‘Fuck you. I’m not leaving this hallway,’” Hyde recounted. “He wasn’t going to leave without those kids.”

Without any way to get into the classroom, officers in the hallway waited desperately for a way to secure entry and did the best they could to otherwise advance their goal of saving lives.

“It’s not that someone said stand down,” Hyde said. “It was ‘Right now, we can’t get in until we get the tools. So we’re going to do what we can do to save lives.’ And what was that? It was to evacuate the students and the parents and the teachers out of the rooms.”

Tools that might have been useful in breaking through the door never materialized, but Arredondo had also asked for keys that could open the door. Unlike some other school district police departments, Uvalde CISD officers don’t carry master keys to the schools they visit. Instead, they request them from an available staff member when they’re needed.

Robb Elementary did not have a modern system of locks and access control. “You’re talking about a key ring that’s got to weigh 10 pounds,” Hyde said.

Eventually, a janitor provided six keys. Arredondo tried each on a door adjacent to the room where the gunman was, but it didn’t open.

Later, another key ring with between 20 and 30 keys was brought to Arredondo.

“I was praying one of them was going to open up the door each time I tried a key,” Arredondo said in an interview.

None did.

Eventually, the officers on the north side of the hallway called Arredondo’s cellphone and told him they had gotten a key that could open the door.

The officers on the north side of the hallway formed a group of mixed law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Border Patrol, to enter the classroom and take down the shooter, Arredondo said.

Ten days after the shooting, The New York Times reported that a group of U.S. Border Patrol agents ignored a directive spoken into their earpieces not to enter the room. The Times has since reported that Arredondo did not object when the team entered the room.

Hyde said if a directive delaying entry was issued, it did not come from Arredondo, but the Times reported that someone was issuing orders at the scene. Hyde said he did not know who that person was. The Border Patrol declined to comment.

At 12:50 p.m., as the officers entered the classroom, Arredondo held his position near the south classroom door in the hallway, in case the gunman tried to run out that door.

At last, the shooter, Salvador Ramos, 18, was brought down. A harrowing standoff rapidly became an effort to find the wounded and count the dead.

Once the officers cleared the room, Border Patrol agents trained to render emergency medical service assessed the wounded. Arredondo and other officers formed a line to help pass the injured children out of the hallway and to emergency medical care.

Expert analysis

A police officer intentionally ditching his radio while answering a call? “I’ve never heard anything like that in my life,” said Steve Ijames, a police tactics expert and former assistant police chief of Springfield, Missouri.

The discarded radio, the missing key and the apparent lack of an incident commander are some of questions raised by experts about the response of Arredondo and the various agencies involved.

Officers are trained never to abandon their radios, their primary communication tool during an emergency, said Ijames. That Arredondo did so the moment he arrived on scene is inexplicable, he said.

Ijames added that it is “inconceivable” that Arredondo’s officers did not have a plan to access any room or building on campus at any moment, given that the school district makes up the entirety of the tiny force’s jurisdiction.

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The experts, which included active-shooting researchers and retired law enforcement personnel, homed in on the moment officers entered the school and found the doors to rooms 111 and 112 locked. Three said this moment afforded Arredondo a chance to step back, regroup and work with other officers to devise a new strategy.

“It takes having someone who has the wherewithal to come up with a quick, tactical plan and executing it,” said former Seguin police Chief Terry Nichols. “It may not be the best plan, but a plan executed vigorously is better than the best unexecuted plan in the world.”

Nichols, who teaches classes on active-shooter responses, said he understands the instinct for command staff to want to confront a gunman themselves. But he said commanders must not lose focus of their role in an emergency.

“We have to — as leaders, especially as a chief of police — step back and allow our men and women to go do what they do, and use our training and experience where they’re needed, to command and control a chaotic situation,” Nichols said.

Active-shooter protocols developed after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, where a slow police response delayed medical care that could have saved several victims, train police to confront shooters immediately, without waiting for backup and without regard for their personal safety. An active-shooting training that Uvalde school district police attended in March stressed these tactics, warning that responders likely would be required to place themselves in harm’s way.

“The training that police officers have received for more than a decade mandates that when shots are fired in an active-shooter situation, officers or an officer needs to continue through whatever obstacles they face to get to the shooter, period,” said Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who co-wrote the bureau’s foundational research on mass shootings. “If that means they go through walls, or go around the back through windows, or through an adjoining classroom, they do that.”

Bruce Ure, a former Victoria police chief, said drawing conclusions about police conduct during the shooting is premature since the authorities have not completed their investigations. He said he believes Arredondo acted reasonably given the circumstances he faced.

Ure disagreed that Arredondo should have retreated into a command role once other officers arrived, since most active-shooter events last mere minutes. He argued that no amount of ad-hoc planning outside would have changed the outcome of the massacre once the shooter got inside the classrooms.

He said attempting to breach windows or open classroom doors by force were unrealistic options that would have exposed police and children to potentially fatal gunfire with little chance of success. Officers’ only choice, he said, was to wait to find a key, which he agreed should not have taken so long.

Hyde said attempting to enter through windows would have “guaranteed all the children in the rooms would be killed” along with several officers. He said this “reckless and ineffective” action, when police could not see where the shooter was, would have made officers easy targets to be picked off at will.

Ure, who as an attendee was wounded in the hand during the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 60 people, acknowledged the post-Columbine wisdom that immediately confronting shooters is paramount. But he said the scene inside Robb Elementary presented a “perfect storm” of an active shooter barricaded with hostages.

“There’s no manual for this type of scenario,” Ure said. “If people need to be held appropriately accountable, then so be it. But I think the lynch-mob mentality right now isn’t serving any purpose, and it’s borderline reckless.”

Questions over command

The day after the shooting, Arredondo and other local officials stood behind Gov. Greg Abbott and DPS Director Steve McCraw as they held their first major news conference to address the slaughter.

Abbott lauded law enforcement agencies for their “amazing courage” and said the actions of police officers were the reason the shooting was “not worse.” McCraw said a school resource officer had “engaged” the shooter outside the building but was unable to stop him from entering.

To Arredondo, that information did not ring true. Arredondo turned to a DPS official, whom he declined to identify, and asked why state officials had been given inaccurate information.

In a stunning reversal at a news conference the next day, the DPS regional director for the area, Victor Escalon, retracted McCraw’s initial claim and said the gunman “was not confronted by anybody” before entering the school.

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At a third news conference the following afternoon, Abbott said he was “livid” about being “misled” about the police response to the shooting. He said his incorrect remarks were merely a recitation of what officers had told him.

Hyde said the inaccurate information did not come from Arredondo, who had briefed state and law enforcement officials about the shooting before the first press conference. Abbott on Wednesday declined to identify who had misled him, saying only that the bad information had come from “public officials.”

McCraw also told reporters that Arredondo, whom he identified by his position rather than his name, treated the gunman as a “barricaded suspect” rather than an active shooter, which McCraw deemed a mistake. In the news conference, McCraw referred to Arredondo as the shooting’s “incident commander.”

Hyde said Arredondo did not issue any orders to other law enforcement agencies and had no knowledge that they considered him the incident commander.

The National Incident Management System, which guides all levels of government on how to respond to mass emergency events, says that the first person on scene is the incident commander. That incident commander remains in that charge until they relinquish it or are incapacitated.

Hyde acknowledged those guidelines but said Arredondo’s initial response to the shooting was not that of an incident commander, but of a first responder.

“Once he became engaged, intimately involved on the front line of this case, he is one of those that is in the best position to continue to resolve the incident at that time,” Hyde said. “So while it’s easy to identify him as the incident commander because of that NIMS process, in practicality, you see here he was not in the capacity to be able to run this entire organization.”

With no radio and no way to receive up-to-date information about what was happening outside of the hallway, Hyde said, another one of the local, state and federal agencies that arrived at the scene should have taken over command.

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Nichols, the former Seguin police chief, dismissed the idea that another officer would seamlessly adopt the incident commander role simply because Arredondo never did. He said decisive commanders are especially important when multiple agencies respond to an incident and are unsure how to work together.

“You know the facility. You’re the most intimately knowledgeable about this,” Nichols said of Arredondo. “Take command and set what your priorities need to be, right now.”

On May 31, officials with DPS, which is investigating the Uvalde shooting, told news outlets that Arredondo was no longer cooperating with the agency. The agency’s investigative unit, the Texas Rangers, wanted to continue talking with the police chief, but he had not responded to the agency’s request for two days, DPS officials said.

Hyde said Arredondo participated in multiple interviews with DPS in the days following the shooting, including a law enforcement debriefing the day of the attack and a videotaped debriefing with DPS analysts and the FBI the day after.

He’d also briefed the governor and other state officials and had multiple follow-up calls with DPS for its investigation.

But after McCraw said at a press conference on May 27 that Arredondo made the “wrong decision,” the police chief “no longer participated in the investigation to avoid media interference,” Hyde said.

The Rangers had asked Arredondo to come in for another interview, but he told investigators he could not do it on the day they asked because he was covering shifts for his officers, Hyde said.

“At no time did he communicate his unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation,” Hyde said. “His phone was flooded with calls and messages from numbers he didn’t recognize, and it’s possible he missed calls from DPS but still maintained daily interaction by phone with DPS assisting with logistics as requested.”

Hyde said Arredondo is open to cooperating with the Rangers investigation but would like to see a transcript of his previous comments.

“That’s a fair thing to ask for before he has to then discuss it again because, as time goes by, all the information that he hears, it’s hard to keep straight,” Hyde said.

Hundreds wait in line holding flowers and each other to pay their respects at a memorial in front of the Robb Elementary Sch…
Children visited the memorial at Robb Elementary on May 28. Hundreds of people waited in line holding flowers and one another to pay their respects there. Credit: Kaylee Greenlee Beal for The Texas Tribune

“They loved those kids”

When the gunman was dead, police had another grim task: moving the tiny bodies of injured children out of the room and getting them emergency medical care as soon as possible.

A line was formed to gently but quickly move them out. Each child passed through Arredondo’s arms.

Later that night, Arredondo went to the Uvalde civic center, where families waited desperately for news that their loved ones had survived, or had at worst been taken to the hospital for treatment.

For Arredondo, his lawyer said, telling families that “no additional kids were coming out of the school alive was the toughest part of his career.”

The chaotic law enforcement response to the shooting by local, state and federal agencies is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Texas Department of Public Safety. It is the subject of an investigative committee of the Texas Legislature and will be the source of months of scrutiny by public officials, survivors and the families of the deceased. Survivors and the families of victims have started contacting lawyers for potential legal action.

Arredondo’s role will be central to all of those probes.

For now, he is avoiding the public eye, having left his home temporarily because it is under constant watch by news reporters.

But he’s also been unable to mourn with his community.

Arredondo grew up in the community and attended Robb Elementary as a boy. He started his career at the Uvalde Police Department and spent 16 years there before moving to Laredo for work.

He returned to his hometown in 2020 to head up the school district’s police department. He and his police officers loved high-fiving the schoolchildren on his visits to the schools, Hyde said.

“It was the highlight of his days,” Hyde said. “They loved those kids.”

Arredondo’s ties to the shooting are also familial. One of the teachers killed by the gunman, Irma Garcia, was married to Arredondo’s second cousin, Joe Garcia. Garcia died suddenly two days after his wife’s death.

Arredondo grew up with Joe Garcia and went to school with him. But when the funeral services started, Arredondo said he opted against attending because he didn’t want his presence to distract from the Garcias’ grieving loved ones.

His small police department is also suffering.

Eva Mireles, another teacher killed by the gunman, was married to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police officer Ruben Ruiz.

“They lost a person that they consider family,” Hyde said.

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To relieve his grieving officers, Arredondo has picked up extra shifts at the police department.

And he’s received death threats and negative messages from people he does not know.

“Those are people who just don’t know the whole story that are making their assumptions on what they’re hearing or reading. That’s been difficult,” he said. “The police in Uvalde, we’re like your family, your brothers and sisters. We help each other out at any cost, and we’re used to helping out the community, period, because that’s what most public servants are about.”

Arredondo said he remains proud of his response and that of his other officers that day. He believes they saved lives. He also believes that fate brought him back home for a reason.

“No one in my profession wants to ever be in anything like this,” Arredondo said. “But being raised here in Uvalde, I was proud to be here when this happened. I feel like I came back home for a reason, and this might possibly be one of the main reasons why I came back home. We’re going to keep on protecting our community at whatever cost.”

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The San Antonio Express-News reported what several children said about the carnage in their classroom. The Houston Chronicle said that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who opposes gun control, wants the state to spend $50 million in bullet-proof shields.

As Salvador Ramos approached Room 112 in Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the teacher and her students heard gunshots.

She told the fourth-graders to get down on the floor or under their desks, and she went to the door to make sure it was locked. Then Ramos fired at the door handle. Rounds from his assault-style rifle shattered the door window and struck the teacher, fatally injuring her as she tried to protect her kids.

“It’s time to die,” Ramos declared as he entered the classroom. “You guys are mine.”

Ramos at one point asked if anyone needed help, and when one child stood up, he shot him.

These details of the first minutes of the May 24 rampage are from a 10-year-old boy who was in the classroom and who has described the scene to his mother and to law enforcement officials.

“Creepy music” blared from Ramos’ phone as the 18-year-old high school dropout opened fired on the class, the boy recalled. His mother, Corina Camacho, said shrapnel struck her son in the leg.

Then Ramos walked to the connected classroom next door, Room 111, and opened fire again.

“He was like going back and forth, playing music,” the mother told the San Antonio Express-News.

The terror continued for over an hour. It would be more than 75 minutes after the first 911 calls before members of a Border Patrol tactical unit went into the classrooms and killed Ramos. By then, 19 students and two teachers — Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia — were dead. Seventeen other people were injured. It isn’t clear which teacher was killed when Ramos shot through the door.

On Morning of chaos: A reconstruction of how the Uvalde massacre unfolded

The Express-News’ account of the early minutes of the rampage is based on interviews with law enforcement sources, state lawmakers, Corina Camacho and civil lawyers who represent surviving children and teachers.

Camacho’s son told his story to the FBI recently. He is one of several witnesses who were interviewed by the FBI, the Texas Rangers or the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The information from the lawyers and law enforcement sources helps shed light on the tragedy and the disastrous police response that followed. Key details remain unknown to investigators as they try to reconcile incomplete or contradictory statements from witnesses and law enforcement officers.

The massacre in the rural town of more than 15,000 is the second-worst mass shooting at a school, after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 26. President Joe Biden visited Uvalde last week to comfort the families, and in a televised speech days later, he renewed calls for tighter gun restrictions, including a ban on assault-style rifles.

Frozen with fear

The morning of Tuesday, May 24, began like any day near the end of the school year. Some classes at Robb Elementary had just come in from recess. Others had just let out for lunch. Summer break would begin in two days.

Teacher Emilia Marin had propped open a door with a rock to help a co-worker bring in food for an end-of-the-year party from a car in the school parking lot. Then Marin saw a truck crash outside the school’s perimeter fence, said her lawyer, Don Flanary.

Marin went back inside the school to get her phone and report the crash to 911.

When she came back outside, still on the phone, she saw her co-worker flee and heard people at a funeral home across the street yell, “He’s got a gun!”

Marin saw Ramos jump over a fence. She kicked the rock away, pulled the door shut and ran into the school. She huddled under a counter in a classroom.

She heard gunshots, first outdoors, then inside the school. Her 911 call dropped. She grabbed chairs and boxes to hide behind. Frozen with fear, she tried to be still.

Marin received a text from her daughter asking if she was safe.

“There’s a shooter,” Marin typed back. “He’s shooting. He’s in here.”

Then Ramos approached Room 112.

Camacho and one of her lawyers, Stephanie Sherman, said her son described how Ramos shot his way into the classroom and how police at one point opened the door and retreated after he fired at them. Law enforcement sources disputed the latter part of the boy’s account, saying no officer went into the classroom during the initial response.

The officers “were all in the hallway, and when shots were fired, they all ran back to another hallway or outside,” one source told the Express-News.

Another lawyer for the family, Shawn Brown, said the boy related different details to his grandfather. He told the grandfather that his teacher shielded him with her body as he lay on the floor and that Ramos fired at her, killing her and striking him in the leg.

Brown also said the boy told his grandfather that Ramos, after pacing from one room to the other, asked if anyone needed help — acting in the guise of a police officer.

“When one kid stood up, he shot him with the AK,” Brown said, quoting the grandfather. “That may be the reason he thought an officer had come in.”

Investigators are trying to unravel discrepancies in the accounts provided by the traumatized children. Camacho’s son’s account differs somewhat from what other children have told investigators. The inconsistencies could reflect differing vantage points — whether the children were lying facedown or were facing away from Ramos.

Some saw most of the massacre unfold. As their memories return, the children have revealed progressively more and sometimes contradictory details to investigators and family members.

“The kids’ interviews, they’re bad,” said one law enforcement source, referring to the graphic details. “I can’t even imagine the nightmare … that those kids went through.”

Brown said the differing versions simply reflect trauma.

“It’s because of the shock and because of the stress that they went through,” Brown said. “They’re remembering bits and pieces as they go, and it may not be in sequential order. It was such a traumatic experience that their brains are trying to block it out.”

The official account of what happened inside the school has not been fully disclosed because of a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers, assisted by the FBI, that is being overseen by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee…

First on the scene

According to law enforcement sources, Uvalde police and Uvalde CISD officers were among the first to arrive. Because it was school district property, responding officers deferred to Arredondo.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, whose district includes Uvalde, said last week that Arredondo was not aware of 911 calls from students inside the classroom, who were begging to be rescued.

Arredondo’s six-officer department does not have its own radio communications system. The 911 calls were routed to the Uvalde Police Department, Gutierrez said. Why Arredondo would not have known about the desperate calls from the students is unclear, given that numerous officers equipped with radios were at the scene.

One source said interviews with officers indicated that Arredondo did not have a police radio with him. Another law enforcement source said security video from the school confirms Arredondo did not have a radio.

“He made some phone calls to Uvalde PD” to get information and may have missed the 911 calls from the students, a source said.

On Uvalde schools police chief didn’t receive 911 calls

Also, the fortified, concrete walls of the school interfered with reception of the radios carried by other officers, law enforcement sources said.

At one point, 19 officers were in a hallway outside the classrooms where Ramos had cornered his terrified victims.

“There’s not as much radio traffic as you would think there would be,” one law enforcement source said. “Those inside may not have heard the kids’ 911 calls.”

Because some officers were off-duty or rushed in, they didn’t have body cameras or did not set them to record, further complicating matters for investigators.

Arredondo appears to have been inside the building with some school police officers and Uvalde police officers. Investigators have collected reports from some first responders indicating that Arredondo tried early on to negotiate with the gunman by cellphone, but Ramos did not answer.

As officers planned strategy in the hallway, Arredondo believed the victims were all dead and Ramos had barricaded himself, investigators said. He held officers back to wait for reinforcements and specialized equipment, and the officers on the scene stood down, according to sources.

DPS Director Steve McCraw has said there was “no excuse” for that decision and that the 19 officers should have stormed in and killed Ramos early on to end the bloodshed and give aid to the wounded.

On As Uvalde students waited for rescue, police assumed there was no reason to rush in

Outside, other officers cordoned off the school and barred agitated parents from going inside.

While the school was under attack, Mireles, one of the fourth-grade teachers who was killed, called her husband, Ruben Ruiz. He is a school district police officer, and he rushed to the scene, Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell said. Like the students’ parents, he was prohibited from entering the building.

Mireles and Ruiz talked by phone as the fatally wounded teacher took her last breaths.

“She’s in the classroom and he’s outside. It’s terrifying,” Mitchell told reporters after being briefed by Uvalde County sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene.

Radio traffic shows that officers from several federal law enforcement agencies responded, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Ultimately, members of a Border Patrol tactical unit shot Ramos, who apparently was locked inside one of the classrooms.

Brown, the lawyer for the family of the 10-year-old boy, said the child described how he and a couple of other students got up when they were rescued.

“He said he saw the other kids on the floor,” Brown said, choking back emotion. “He told the grandfather, ‘I got up. My friends didn’t.’”

‘Really bad’ for police

Why the outer door Ramos used to get into the school didn’t lock when the teacher pulled it shut is unknown. One law enforcement source said officials plan to remove that door and the classroom doors for inspection.

A team from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University went to the school this past week to conduct an assessment of what happened.

The U.S. Justice Department is carrying out a separate review of the police response, at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin Jr.

“The report is not going to be good,” one source said. “This is really bad for law enforcement.” | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

As more details emerge, the disaster at Uvalde grows ever more horrifying. The New York Times reported that more than 140 officers of the law converged on Robb Elementary School. They began to arrive only minutes after the killer started shooting children and teachers. Two officers tried to enter the classroom but were struck by gunfire. The school district’s chief of police—who commanded a force of six—decided not to storm the classroom, although the first rule in an active shooter situation is to confront the shooter immediately and disable him. Since Columbine, police training for school shootings emphasizes the importance of rushing the killer and stopping the shooting.

The chief decided that the shooter was barricaded in the classroom and that no one was in danger. He did not have a police radio. He called on a cell phone to ask for reinforcements. Children in the classroom with the killer repeatedly called 911 to plead for help. The police waited outside the door for more than an hour. When a tactical force from the Border Patrol stormed the classroom, the officer in charge told them to stay out. They disobeyed orders and killed the shooter.

The story begins:

UVALDE, Texas — Two minutes after a gunman burst through an unlocked door at Robb Elementary School and began shooting inside a pair of connected classrooms, Pete Arredondo arrived outside, one of the first police officers to reach the scene.

The gunman could still be heard firing repeatedly, and Chief Arredondo, as leader of the small school district police force in Uvalde, took charge.

But there were problems from the start.

Chief Arredondo did not have a police radio with him, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, which may have impeded his immediate ability to communicate with police dispatchers. As two supervisors from the local police department were grazed by bullets fired by the gunman, he made a decision to fall back, the official said.

Using a cellphone, the chief called a police landline with a message that set the stage for what would prove to be a disastrous delay in interrupting the attack: The gunman has an AR-15, he told them, but he is contained; we need more firepower and we need the building surrounded.

Rather than confront an actively shooting gunman immediately, as officers have been trained to do since the killings at Columbine High School in 1999, the ever-growing force of increasingly armed officers arriving at Robb Elementary held back for more than an hour….

A tactical team led by Border Patrol officers ultimately ignored orders not to breach the classroom, interviews revealed, after a 10-year-old girl inside the classroom warned 911 dispatchers that one of the two teachers in the room was in urgent need of medical attention.

The story is horrifying. It is a story of missed opportunities, unnecessary deaths, fear, miscommunication, ignorance, and perhaps cowardice. The children risked their lives to call 911. Their messages were not relayed to the officer in charge at the scene. 140 police officers on hand, waiting for orders. No orders came other than to evacuate the children who were not in the classroom with the killer. The children in the classroom with the killer were on their own for over an hour while armed police waited for a key and an order.

Mercedes Schneider reports that the Ohio Legislature passed a bill allowing teachers and staff to carry guns. The Governor has promised to sign it.

Teachers have repeatedly said that don’t want to be armed. Whatever weapon they carry will be far less powerful than an AR15 or other assault weapon that school shooters favor. They worry about accidents, crossfire, killing students or other teachers.

But Ohio teachers will be able to carry weapons and to get training, though not more than 24 hours of instruction in handling a weapon.

Schneider has questions, informed by her experience as a high school teacher:

The bill does not consider that many parents may not want their children attending a school in which one or more teachers have a loaded gun in the classroom. The bill does not require school officials to identify to parents exactly which teachers have loaded guns with them in their classrooms. The bill does not require teacher-arming districts to offer wary parents any alternative, such as immediate transfer to another school or non-packing district with transportation provided.

The bill does not require notifying parents of any safety precautions regarding having a loaded weapon in a classroom full of children.

The bill fails to consider any publicized safety protocol or any training for students or anyone else who must be in the classroom, day after day, with a loaded gun in the same room.

Is the teacher carrying a concealed weapon as that teacher works in close contact with students? Is it locked in a safe in the classroom? Who has access? Are the exact teachers “packing heat” kept a secret from parents and students? What if those teachers are discovered and publicized on social media? Do they then become marks by those who see it as a challenge to confront a teacher carrying a gun? Does it become a dangerous game to some students to try to steal the teacher’s gun? Does videoing the teacher’s gun become a social media challenge?

How will districts pay for the liability insurance? What companies will insure the 24-hour-trained, gun-toting teachers in rooms full of children?

She hopes Ohio will think some more about this decision.