Uvalde school police chief says he’s still cooperating in Texas shooting case

Associated PressUpdated: Thursday, June 02, 2022, 05:41 PM IST
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Associated Press

The school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, who served as the on-site commander during last week’s deadly shooting in Uvalde, Texas, said on Wednesday that he’s in contact daily with investigators, contradicting claims from state law enforcement that he has stopped cooperating.

In a brief interview, School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo told CNN that he’s speaking regularly with Texas Department of Public Safety investigators.

“I’ve been on the phone with them every day,” Arredondo stated. The chief has received backlash and allegations from the community that he delayed sending officers into the school on May 24, believing that the gunman was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms and the shooting had morphed into a hostage situation.

Nineteen children and two teachers died in the attack at Robb Elementary School, the deadliest school shooting to take place in nearly a decade. Funerals began this week, and the U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona attended Wednesday’s services for teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the attack, and her husband, Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later.

The district announced on Wednesday that students and staff would not return to that campus, though plans are underway to decide where the less than 600 students would attend the classes for the rest of the fall.

Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said Wednesday that his office is working with state and federal agencies to request upwards of $45 million in federal funding for the school.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, its School Emergency Response to Violence, known as Project SERV, “funds short-term education-related services” to help educational facilities “recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.”

Gutierrez said he is unaware of any plans to tear down Robb Elementary but that funds obtained through the program by other schools have traditionally been used to rebuild.

State officials have said police waited for more than an hour outside the classroom where Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire, despite repeated pleas from children calling 911 for help. At one point there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway, Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said.

They have now determined that the teacher, who has not been identified, propped the door open with a rock, but then removed the rock and closed the door when she realised there was a shooter on campus, Considine said. But, Considine said, the door that was designed to lock when shut did not lock.

Since the shooting, law enforcement and state officials have struggled to present an accurate timeline and details of the event and how police responded, sometimes providing conflicting information or withdrawing statements hours later. State police have said some accounts were preliminary and could change as more witnesses are interviewed.

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state to conduct in-person school district security audits, including random, unannounced “intruder detection” visits to campuses “to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped.”

“This will improve accountability and ensure school districts are following the plans they create,” Abbott said in a letter to the head of the Texas School Safety Centre at Texas State University. Texas has more than 1,200 school districts, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Abbott also asked top lawmakers to convene a legislative committee to examine and make recommendations on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety and more.” The next Texas legislative session is scheduled for January 2023, although some lawmakers have urged Abbott to call a special session in response to the shooting.

After the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, lawmakers in 2019 approved $100 million for schools to improve campus safety with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, shooter alarms systems and other safety measures. They also allowed more teachers to carry guns on campus and be trained in campus shooter response.

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