UVALDE, Texas — A state lawmaker says dispatchers did not directly relay information about students' 911 calls to the incident commander at Robb Elementary.
"There's enough blame to go around," said State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, on Thursday.
One of the new pieces of information is that Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde CISD police chief who was identified by Texas DPS as the incident commander at the scene, did not receive information on 911 calls coming from inside the room. He and other law enforcement agents waited in the hallway outside the room for about an hour.
"The 911 calls were not being communicated to the so-called incident commander, Officer Arredondo. They were being communicated to a Uvalde police officer, and the state agency that I have spoken to has not told me who that is," Gutierrez said. "From that point, Uvalde PD has 17 different dispatches that they would make to a list of 17 contacts. The state authority does not have that list, but DPS is one of the people on that list."
Additionally Friday, KENS 5's sister station KVUE confirmed from two law enforcement sources that Arredondo arrived on scene of the shooting without his radio and other equipment.
"My last remaining question on 911 calls is, who is receiving the 911 calls from the little boys and girls?" Gutierrez also said Thursday. "Is it just PD, or is it these other entities? I was told that it was just PD. I'm not blaming the Uvalde PD, I'm not blaming the ISD cops, or the troopers, or anybody singularly. There is blame enough here to go around. There was human error, and there was system error."
"I certainly think that Mr. Arredondo, whom I do not know, has a lot of responsibility to bear here, as does every law enforcement unit that was at that property at that school," he said. "In my conversations with (Texas DPS head) Colonel McGraw, he has affirmed that same concern that law enforcement failed here, not just Officer Arredondo."
Gutierrez said he has requested the names of all 19 officers who waited in the hallway, and that although he was told he'd get it by Friday, the district attorney has asked that the information be withheld because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
“Everybody’s to blame for what went on, including Greg Abbott, and on some level including me,” Gutierrez said, adding the system failure resulted from multiple law enforcement agencies not getting the same information from dispatch.
“Those officers were likely PD, the system failure is we have multiple different radio systems where people can’t talk to each other in an effective manner,”
Gutierrez said 13 officers from multiple agencies were inside the Robb Elementary School hallway while 911 calls came in for nearly an hour. He’s trying to find out who they were.
“As of this week I’ve been told in that period of time there were between two to 13 officers, fluctuating in and out, I expect to get that tomorrow, that will shed light on what exact agencies are here at that time,” he said.
'An absence of leadership'
While Arredondo apparently did not have a direct line to 911 dispatchers, it was just a few months ago that the district's police force took an active shooter training class that offers a clear workaround for communication problems.
Texas' official active shooter playbook dictates law enforcement should prioritize communication with officers in the middle of the incident. At the same time, it offers a contingency plan to ensure those first responders are in contact with dispatchers, stating that "they may want to use their cell phones to open a line to 911" themselves.
Arredondo, in charge of the response last Tuesday as the incident commander, has taken this particular course at least twice in the last two years. He still hasn't explained what he knew at the time, or what he did.
Gutierrez, for his part, says it's part of a larger problem in rural Texas, saying: "We don't have them talk to one another on one, uniform system. That's an absence of leadership."
A roadblock to the incident report
Gutierrez, meanwhile, expects a copy of the radio transmissions on top of the names of officers, but says its unlikely he will receive it by Friday.
He said DPS has also promised to provide him with the full report on the shooting. Later in the evening on Thursday, however, he tweeted that the district attorney has blocked him from receiving that report.
Gutierrez in recent days has spoken out about the need for gun reform legislation. 21 people, including 19 children and two teachers, were killed when a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle entered Robb Elementary and started shooting inside a classroom on May 24.
State Sen. Gutierrez interrupted a press conference the governor was giving last week to request a special legislative session to enact common sense gun legislation.
Governor Abbott announced Wednesday that he will call a special legislative committee to look at school security and protecting students at Texas public schools. The list of leaders on the committee does include some Democrats, but not Gutierrez, even though the site of the tragedy is in his district.
"It's a slap in the face of the people of Uvalde. It's also a slap in the face to the people of Santa Fe and El Paso because they don't have a voice on this committee either. This is just a stall tactic from Governor Abbott," Gutierrez said Wednesday.
The state senator is continuing his urge to Governor Abbott to follow through with a legislative session, rather than simply a committee.
"We already know what happens, we know why it happens, and we know what needs to be done to stop it from happening the next time. We don't need another Blue Ribbon committee. We need a special session so that we can start crafting commonsense Solutions right now that are going to keep our kids safe."