The police chief of public schools in Uvalde, Texas, comes to defend officers criticized for their response to last month’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary.
In an interview published Thursday in The Texas Tribune, Pete Arredondo made his most descriptive comments about the police response since the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers.
The interview comes as new documents detailed in The New York Times reveal that police were afraid to enter an elementary school classroom.
A Robb Elementary teacher injured in the massacre said in an interview with “Good Morning America” earlier this week that the police were “cowards” for their actions and that their lack of quick response was inexcusable.
Arredondo said in his interview with The Texas Tribune that officers risk their lives in elementary school.
“Not a single officer who responded ever hesitated, not even for a moment, to put themselves in danger to save the children,” Arredondo said.
“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 classrooms by everyone involved saved more than 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the gunman and eliminated the threat.”
Arredondo’s comments come in the wake of new documents showing that more than a dozen students were still alive between the start of the shooting and when four officers entered the classrooms, The New York Times revealed Thursday.
Investigators found that the time between when the gunman started firing and when officers confronted him and shot him in the classroom was 77 minutes, according to the news site, while Arredondo and other first responders knew there were still people in the classrooms.
Arredondo added that he had not previously discussed his report of the May 24 shooting “because he did not want to add to the grief of the community or blame others,” according to The Texas Tribune.
The Tribune also reported that Arredondo did not carry a police radio with him because he thought it would “slow him down” and that they were not “working in some school buildings” in the district.
Uvalde agents like Arredondo also don’t carry keys to schools and must ask for them from employees, according to the Tribune.
His lack of a radio and a key to enter the classroom was “most noticeable” and “appears to have contributed to a chaotic approach” in the officers’ response, law enforcement officials told the Tribune.
According to a state senator who spoke to the victim’s family, the police response claimed the life of at least one child who bled to death in a classroom while first responders waited to enter.
The Justice Department announced last month that it is investigating the police’s response to the shooting.