State officials have previously pinned the widely criticized decision to not breach the classroom to Uvalde school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who has previously avoided commenting on his role or decision making on the day of the shooting.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” he told the Tribune, adding, “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door,” though the Tribune reports the chief did instruct officers to start breaking the outside windows of other classrooms and begin evacuating students.
Arredondo “assumed that some other officer or official had taken control of the larger response,” the Tribune reports. “He took on the role of a front-line responder.”
Multiple investigations and legislative reviews have been launched in the wake of the attack, including by the Texas House Investigative Committee, but details of the massacre has still been slow to emerge.
At times, authorities have offered contradictory explanations of how the gunman was able to enter the school and how the law enforcement response unfolded, frustrating local residents and officials who are demanding answers.
While new insights were revealed by the reports, the conflicting narratives offered by law enforcement still remain and are now complicated by Arredondo’s denial of officials’ statements that he made the call to not enter the classroom.
What the reports reveal about the timeline
Arredondo told the Tribune that he left his two radios outside the school because he wanted his hands free to hold his gun. He thought they would slow him down because of a faulty clip and an antenna that might hit him as he ran, the Tribune reported.
Once the chief and a group of Uvalde officers approached the doors to the adjoining classrooms where the shooter had entered, they found the doors were locked, Arredondo told the Tribune. The gunman then fired shots from inside the classroom that penetrated the classroom door and wall, grazing some of the Uvalde police officers and lodging into the wall next to the hallway where there were other classrooms, according to the report.
Because the classroom door was reinforced with a steel jamb, officers were unable to kick the door in, Arredondo told the Tribune. The chief said that he called police dispatch and asked for a SWAT team, snipers and tools to open the door.
It’s unclear at what time Arredondo made that request or ordered officers to begin evacuating students, but CNN has previously reported that at about 11:44 a.m., officers were calling for additional resources and evacuating students and teachers. By 12:03 p.m., as many as 19 officers were in the hallway of the school, officials have said.
At that time, a student trapped inside one of the besieged classrooms called 911 identifying herself and the classroom she was in. She called two more times several minutes later, telling dispatchers that eight to nine students were still alive, according to authorities. Arredondo told the Tribune he was not aware of the 911 calls because he did not have his radios and says no one relayed them to him.
The Times reports that at around 12:30 p.m., Arredondo said, “We’re ready to breach, but that door is locked,” citing a transcript.
At some point, the Tribune reports, a janitor provided six keys that were unable to open the door and another key ring with as many as 30 keys was brought to the chief later, but those were unsuccessful as well. It’s unclear at what time Arredondo received the keys.
DPS said on May 31 that Arredondo had not responded to a request for a follow-up interview with the Texas Rangers, who are investigating the massacre. The next day, Arredondo told CNN, “I am in contact with DPS every day.”
Arredondo’s attorney told the Tribune that the chief participated in multiple interviews and follow-up calls with DPS in the days following the shooting and also briefed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials.
After DPS said he made the flawed decision, Arredondo “no longer participated in the investigation to avoid media interference,” Hyde said.
In a statement responding to the Times report, Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze said, “The investigations being conducted by the Texas Rangers and the FBI are ongoing, and we look forward to the full results being shared with the victims’ families and the public, who deserve the full truth of what happened that tragic day.”
CNN has reached out to Arredondo’s attorney, DPS and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District for comment. CNN has also reached out for comment to The National Incident Management System, which guides all levels of government on how to respond to mass emergency events.
Investigative committee digs for answers
On Thursday, the Texas House Investigative Committee held its first hearing in its probe into the Robb Elementary shooting.
The panel may release its preliminary findings before the full probe is complete, Republican state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the committee chairman, said in the panel’s opening remarks. The preliminary report is expected to be complete by the end of the month, a source close to the committee told CNN.
Burrows, along with the two other committee members — Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman — heard private testimony from top Texas Department of Public Safety officials Thursday, including from DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw, according to a witness list provided by the committee.
Both Moody and Burrows declined to share details about Thursday’s closed-door session. When asked how it felt reviewing the evidence, Moody told CNN, “Like every other parent in this state, I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m shocked.”
The panel will meet again next week to review more evidence and conduct more interviews, Burrows said.
State and local agencies are also conducting investigations into the massacre and law enforcement response, though residents and officials alike have become frustrated with the apparent lack of transparency and cooperation.
“It’s clear that the state and local officials now are not cooperating with each other,” US Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, told CNN Saturday, noting he’s asked the FBI to take the full lead on the investigation.
CNN’s Rosa Flores, Rosalina Nieves, Holly Yan, Omar Jimenez, Andy Rose, Shimon Prokupecz, Rebekah Riess and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.