Uvalde school police chief says he’s still cooperating
The school district police chief who served as on-site commander during last week’s deadly shooting in Uvalde, Texas, said Wednesday that he’s talking daily with investigators, contradicting claims from state law enforcement that he’s stopped cooperating.
In a brief interview, Uvalde Consolidated Independent 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 said.
Nineteen children and two teachers died in the attack at Robb Elementary School, the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade. The district announced Wednesday that students and staff would not return to that campus, though plans were still being finalized on where the less than 600 students would attend classes in the fall.
State officials have said 19 police officers waited outside the classroom where Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire, despite repeated pleas from children calling 911 for help.
Travis Considine, chief communications officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday that Arredondo had not responded to DPS requests for two days, while other officers in the Uvalde city and schools police departments continue to sit for interviews and provide statements.
Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The confusing and sometimes contradictory information in the week since the deadly shooting continued Tuesday with the revelation that the exterior door used by the gunman was not left propped open by a teacher, as police previously 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 realized there was a shooter on campus, Considine said. But, Considine said, the door that was designed to lock when shut did not lock.
“We did verify she closed the door. The door did not lock. We know that much and now investigators are looking into why it did not lock,” Considine said.
Investigators confirmed the detail through additional video footage reviewed since Friday’s news conference when authorities first said the door was left propped open.
Considine said the teacher initially propped the door open but ran back inside to get her phone and call 911 when Ramos crashed his truck on campus.
“She came back out while on her phone, she heard someone yell, ‘He has a gun!’, she saw him jump the fence and that he had a gun, so she ran back inside,” removing the rock when she did, Considine said.
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 some statements hours later. State police have said some accounts were preliminary and may change as more witnesses are interviewed.
San Antonio attorney Don Flanary, representing the teacher, told the San Antonio Express-News that she first propped open the door to carry food inside from a car, and that she immediately closed it when she realized the danger.
“She kicked the rock away when she went back in. She remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting,” Flanary told the newspaper.
“She thought the door would lock because that door is always supposed to be locked,” Flanary said.
Flanary has not returned telephone messages left at his office by AP.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott 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.
Also Tuesday, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which represents police officers, urged its member officers to cooperate with “all government investigations” into the shooting and police response and endorsed a federal probe already announced by the Justice Department.
The organization was also sharply critical of the constantly changing narrative of events that has emerged so far.
“There has been a great deal of false and misleading information in the aftermath of this tragedy. Some of the information came from the very highest levels of government and law enforcement,” CLEAT said. “Sources that Texans once saw as iron-clad and completely reliable have now been proven false.”