Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw ripped into the Uvalde school police chief’s handling of last month’s shooting at Robb Elementary School and said that some officers wanted to approach the gunman earlier, including a school district police officer whose wife was killed in the massacre.
That officer, Ruben Ruiz, received a call from his wife, Eva Mireles, who told him that she had been shot.
“He tried to move forward into the hallway,” McCraw said Tuesday at a Senate hearing. “He was detained and they took his gun away from him and escorted him off the scene.”
Mireles later died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
While McCraw criticized the school police chief, Pete Arredondo, for not confronting the gunman sooner, several Texas state senators pressed McCraw on why DPS officers didn’t take charge at the scene.
“I appear to be hypercritical of the on-scene commander, and I don’t mean to be, but the facts are the facts, mistakes were made. It should never have happened that way,” McCraw said Tuesday at the Texas State Capitol, accusing Arredondo of placing “the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
Law enforcement officials released the most detailed timeline yet on Tuesday of last month’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead.
Nine officers, including at least two with rifles, entered the school at 11:36, three minutes after the gunman walked into the school and started firing into classrooms 111 and 112.
Additional officers arrived with the first ballistic shield at 11:52, while two more shields were at the scene shortly after noon.
Despite that, Arredondo waited over an hour for more firepower, tactical gear, and a key to unlock the classroom door, which wasn’t necessary because the door was unlocked the whole time, McCraw said Tuesday.
Video: Texas DPS admits mistakes made in Uvalde response
Multiple DPS agents and officers arrived at the scene within minutes of the shooting, prompting senators on the special committee to question why they didn’t take control.
“When you go into this kind of situation, lives are at stake. Within 5 to 10 minutes, you know what’s going on. You know that whoever is in charge is not making the right decisions. You got to take over and take command of the situation,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said Tuesday.
McCraw responded that the on-scene commander is “the ranking official that has jurisdiction.”
“That’s by practice and doctrine,” McCraw said. “The sheriff and the chief of police of the Uvalde Police Department also deferred and said, yes, he is the on-scene commander.”
At least one DPS special agent appeared bothered by the lack of action being taken at the scene, according to the updated timeline released by law enforcement.
“If there’s kids in there, we need to go in there,” a DPS special agent repeated twice at 11:56 a.m.
An unknown officer responded, “Whoever is in charge will determine that.”
Over 70 minutes passed before a Border Patrol tactical team breached the classroom and took out the gunman, a delay that McCraw called an “abject failure.”
“Three minutes after the suspect entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said. “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111, and 112, was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
Arredondo, in his only public comments since the shooting, told The Texas Tribune that he didn’t consider himself the on-scene commander.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo told the news outlet. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”