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The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Tuesday that Uvalde police could have stopped the mass shooting at Robb Elementary within three minutes, calling their response an “abject failure.”
Testifying before a special Texas Senate committee hearing, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told lawmakers that “There is 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.”
“Three minutes after the suspect entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” he said. “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111, and 112, was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
McCraw on Tuesday again placed blamed on Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, for deciding to put the lives of officers ahead of children’s lives.
His remarks are the first public comments McCraw has made regarding the shooting since last month.
“The officers had weapons, while the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none,” McCraw said Tuesday. “One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued. And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for radio and rifles. And he waited for shields, and he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed.”
The classroom door, which Fox News Digital first reported was physically brought into the state capitol for Tuesday’s hearing, was unlocked, but officers never even tried to open it, McCraw said.
“We set our profession back a decade,” he said.
McCraw testified that on video, he never saw anyone put a hand on the door before the keys arrived. Yet, he said it turns out the classroom door could not be locked from the inside.
The public safety chief began Tuesday by outlining for the Special Committee to Protect All Texans a series of missed opportunities, communication breakdowns and other mistakes.
McCraw said officers with rifles stood and waited in a school hallway for nearly an hour while the 18-year-old gunman carried out the attack using an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle.
Eight minutes after the shooter entered the building, an officer reported that police had a “hooligan” crowbar that they could use to break down the classroom door, McGraw said.
Nineteen minutes after the gunman entered, the first ballistic shield was brought into the building by police, the witness testified.
“It has been reported that he didn’t have a radio with him. That’s true. He did not,” McCraw said of Arredondo.
In addition, McCraw said police and sheriff’s radios did not work within the school; only the radios of Border Patrol agents on the scene worked inside the school, and even they did not work perfectly.
Three days after the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead, McCraw publicly admitted that Arredondo made “the wrong decision” when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as trapped fourth graders inside two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help and anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go inside.
Arredondo later said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.