Newly-released audio of a phone call suggests that the acting Uvalde police chief was informed that there were children in the classroom with the gunman who ended up killing 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary.
According to CNN, interim police chief Mariano Pargas had called Uvalde police dispatchers and learned there were “eight to nine” children alive and needing rescue from suspect Salvador Ramos, 18. Pargas reportedly contacted the dispatchers after they relayed a 911 call from student Khloie Torres, 10, in which she explained she was in a room “full of victims.”
Pargas reportedly contacted dispatchers about six minutes after Torres’ call and four minutes after the information she provided was relayed on police radio. Pargas talked to dispatchers as Torres was still on the line with them, according to CNN.
NEW: Uvalde acting Police Chief Mariano Pargas KNEW there were injured children needing rescue during the massacre, but failed to take any action. pic.twitter.com/4U5uealGEa
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) November 15, 2022
“Eight to nine are still alive. She’s not too sure … She’s not too sure how many are actually DOA or possibly injured. We’re trying…,” the dispatcher is heard telling him.
According to CNN, surveillance and bodycam footage showed Pargas telling a Border Control agent about the injured victims in the minutes following the call. However, he allegedly did not disclose this to a Texas Ranger he spoke to a minute later.
Though a dispatcher told Pargas that Torres and the other children were in room 112, it took Pargas more than 30 minutes to approach the classroom door where police had gathered.
Texas Department of Public Safety director Colonel Steven McCraw called the response to the May 24 shooting an “abject failure” and blamed Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde school district police. Arredondo was fired in August.
McCraw said Arredondo failed to promptly confront Ramos despite being the on-scene commander. McCraw said Arredondo had what he needed to breach the classroom where the gunman was within three minutes, but officers stayed in the hallway for 77 minutes.
Video footage obtained suggests that officers stood by after the initial gunfire, even as the gunman fired four additional rounds. Officers remained inactive even after asking for keys to a presumably unlocked classroom and gathering tear gas, gas masks, and a sledgehammer.
An officer is heard saying they are “making entry” at one point, but it does not occur.
Various agencies responded to the scene, including Texas Rangers, U.S. Border Patrol, and U.S. Marshals Service. Despite this, it was an hour and 14 minutes before anyone entered the classroom and fatally shot Ramos. By then, 21 people died in that classroom.
Arredondo told the media that he did not bring his two radios as he believed they would weigh him down. He also claimed he spent an hour trying to unlock a classroom door that separated him and the gunman.
However, officials now believe Ramos had barricaded himself in an unlocked classroom, and students waited more than an hour to be rescued.
Further, security footage reportedly showed that police never tried to open the classroom door — which would contradict Arredondo’s claims that he spent an hour in the hallway trying to locate a key that would open the door.
A comprehensive report regarding the shooting is expected to be released after a criminal probe is completed at the end of this year.
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[Featured image: City of Uvalde]