Uvalde plans to hire more school police officers in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting, even amid reports that officers dispatched to the scene waited more than an hour to enter the building as children were trapped inside with the shooter.
On Thursday, Hal Harrell, the superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, announced that the district’s police force would expand the size of its police force.
“Our goal is to hire additional officers for each campus for the coming school year,” Hal Harrell said at a news conference.
However, it is not clear that the shooting could have been avoided or mitigated with a larger police department.
According to The New York Times, upon arrival at Robb Elementary School, police waited about an hour and 17 minutes to provide officers with “protective gear to reduce the risk to law enforcement.” By this time, sixty officers had surrounded the perimeter of the school.
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During the delay, Uvalde Police Chief Pete Arredondo is said to have told the squad that “people are going to ask why it is taking so long.”
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“We’re trying to save the rest of life,” he said at the time.
Arredondo also appeared to be aware that people in the school had already been injured. “We think there are some injuries,” he apparently told police. “And you know what we’ve done, we’ve cleared out the rest of the building so we don’t have any more, aside from what’s already in there, of course.”
Investigators are reportedly still investigating how many people could have been saved with a quicker law enforcement response, which could have resulted in victims receiving medical attention earlier.
One of the victim’s grandparents, Leonard Sandoval, told the Times that one of the 10-year-old inside, who later died in a hospital, may have survived if police broke into the building earlier. “He could have been saved,” Sandoval. “The police only went in within an hour. He bled to death.”
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On Thursday, Arredondo told The Texas Tribune that the delay occurred because the only entrance to the school was blocked by a locked door with a steel jamb. The chief said he needed a sniper, tactical gear and keys to open the door.
“Every time I tried a key, I was just praying,” he told the outlet. It was reported that officers were able to open the door after an hour and 17 minutes, killing the gunman within a short time.
“My intention was to get there as quickly as possible, to eliminate all threats and to protect the students and staff,” Arredondo said.
While much of the blame was attributed to Arredondo’s apparent failure to respond adequately to the crisis, the police chief argued that such portraits were unfair.
“Not a single officer who responded ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves in danger to save the children,” Arredondo told the Tribune. “We reacted to the information we had and had to adapt to everything we encountered. Our goal was to save as many lives as possible, and the removal of the students from the classrooms by everyone involved has affected more than 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
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Still, as the outlet noted, Arrendondo’s explanation does not address the entirety of the circumstances behind the police delay. And many law enforcement experts told the Tribune that “serious errors of judgment” had occurred.