Law enforcement officers didn't hesitate to confront an 18-year-old shooter who shot and killed 19 students and two teachers in a Texas school last month, but a wait for keys to the classroom the gunman was barricaded in delayed the response, according to the embattled school police chief.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo said he waited for around an hour for keys to open the door to the classroom where Salvador Ramos, the man who had orchestrated the massacre at Robb Elementary School, had been locked inside. But even when keys were finally brought to him, none of them worked.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo said.
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After nearly 80 minutes, a key to the locked classroom was found. A group of U.S. Border Patrol agents—ignoring an order given by an unknown commander at the scene not to enter the room—stormed the room and killed Ramos.
“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.”
According to a New York Times, Arredondo also had been without a radio at the early stage of the shooting. That meant he was unaware of the frantic 9-1-1 calls from students that had been coming in, asking for help.
Arredondo has been under fire for his handling of the school shooting. Early reports suggested that he had not been cooperating with the investigation of the incident, and at least one teacher wounded in the rampage blasted the police response.