Law enforcement waited about an hour and 20 minutes to breach the classroom where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas last month, even though they knew that some victims in the classroom were still alive and needed urgent medical attention, according to a review of investigative records by the New York Times.
The new details offer a clearer timeline of the police response to the tragedy, which has been marred by contradictions and inaccurate information from officials.
Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school police chief who assumed the role of incident commander at the scene, decided to clear the rest of the school instead of immediately confronting the gunman.
“People are going to ask why we’re taking so long,” a man who investigators believe is Arredondo told other officers at the scene, according to a transcript of body camera footage reviewed by the Times. “We’re trying to preserve the rest of the life.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said in the days after the shooting that Arredondo made the “wrong decision” not to immediately confront the shooter.
There were 33 children and three teachers inside classrooms 111 and 112, more than a dozen of whom were still alive during that hour and 17 minutes, according to the Times.
A teacher inside the room, Eva Mireles, called her husband, Uvalde school district police officer Ruben Ruiz, and said that she was wounded.
“She says she is shot,” Ruiz told other officers as he arrived at the school around 11:48 a.m., according to the body camera transcript reviewed by the Times.
Mireles died in an ambulance and three children died at hospitals after the shooting, according to the Times.
The grandfather of one of the children who died at the hospital, 10-year-old Xavier Lopez, blamed the police for not getting his grandson medical attention sooner.
“He could have been saved,” the boy’s grandfather told the Times. “The police did not go in for more than an hour. He bled out.”
Documents reviewed by the Times also showed that Ramos had a “hellfire” trigger device that is meant to make a semiautomatic firearm fire like an automatic gun.
A team of Border Patrol agents and other officers eventually breached the classroom door and took out the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, around 12:50 p.m.
The police response to the shooting is currently being reviewed by two special committees in the Texas legislature as well as the Department of Justice.
Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment.