Former chief of the Uvalde school police Peter Arredondo told investigators he decided not to breach the classroom where a shooter was holed up with children because he wanted to save the lives of students in other classrooms.
In newly emerged footage from Arredondo’s interview with the Texas Department of Public Safety after the deadly May shooting, the cop said he thought ‘there’s probably going to be some deceased in there,’ and described deciding not to engage the shooter and instead focus on evacuating the school.
The decision went against his department’s active shooter protocols, and essentially left students trapped in the classroom with shooter Salvator Ramos, 18, for dead. In the massacre, 21 people died — 19 students and two teachers.
Arredondo was fired from the Uvalde police force shortly after the shooting, and has been blamed by authorities for the botched response to the shooting which saw heavily armed cops waiting outside the classroom where Ramos was holed up for more than an hour before engaging him.
Former Uvalde school police chief Peter Arredondo speaking with Texas Department of Public Safety investigators less than 24 hours after the May shooting
Footage showing Peter Arredondo directing armed officers inside the Uvalde elementary school
In footage obtained by CNN, the disgraced police chief told investigators he made the decision not to engage Ramos when he saw that other classrooms in the school were still full of children.
‘Once I realized that was going on, my first thought is that we need to vacate. We have him contained – and I know this is horrible and I know it’s [what] our training tells us to do but – we have him contained, there’s probably going to be some deceased in there, but we don’t need any more from out here,’ he told investigators in the footage.
The decision went against the department’s protocol, which directs any armed officer on the scene of an active school shooter to engage, regardless of the risk to themselves.
Arredondo was one of the first to arrive at the school after the shooting began, and was armed with a handgun. He told investigators that he wanted to wait until officers with rifles were scene before attempting to engage Ramos.
Arredondo telling the Texas Department of Public Safety how he chose to prioritize the lives of students in other classrooms
Arredondo told the DPS he figured there were casualties in the classroom with the shooter
Arredondo directing heavily armed officers outside the classroom where the shooter was holed up
In footage from the day, Arredondo could be seen trying to negotiate with the shooter through the closed classroom door, which also went against his training, according to CNN.
He told investigators that while he was trying to speak with Ramos he heard him reload his weapon, saying ‘I’m certain I heard him reload.’
Arredondo also talked about his apprehension to open the classroom door, telling investigators ‘I know that I wasn’t going to be able to grab that door. That’s my thought.’
It is unclear whether he meant he would be unable to do so because he thought he would be shot by Ramos, or because he believed the door to be locked. During the investigations, Arredondo often repeated that one of his reasons for not trying to breach the classroom was because he couldn’t find a key to the door.
A split view of the hallway before the dozens of other cops arrived shows the officers with their rifles drawn, standing behind shields, thirty minutes after the shooting began, yards away from the classroom
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Peter Arredondo
Arredondo has long maintained that he was not the incident commander during the shooting, despite multiple authorities confirming that he was in fact in charge of the scene after the fact.
In the DPS interview, Arredondo said when he saw armed officers who he assumed were Border Patrol agents arrived at the school, he thought they were organizing themselves to breach the classroom.
‘I did let them know we’re taking these kids out first. We need to preserve the life of everybody around him first,’ he said.
However, those legions of armed officers were waiting on word from him to make their move. The scene descended into chaos as the officers were left leaderless.
‘We’re right in there, I wasn’t aware of what was going on outside,’ he told DPS.
Salvador Ramos, 18, barricaded himself in classroom full of students. Arredondo told officers to wait over an hour before engaging the gunman
Salvador Ramos is shown entering the school at 11.33am on May 24 with his AR-15 style weapon in his hand
Salvador Ramos, 18, (pictured) shot and killed 19 students and two teachers while cops held back for over an hour during the Uvalde massacre on May 24
The interview was conducted less than 24 hours after the shooting took place.
It was the only interview Arredondo gave with the DPS, who stopped cooperating with the department when its director blamed him for the botched response.
During the interview, Arredondo told DPS officials he knew at the time of the shooting that his decisions were going to be closely examined.
‘We’re going to get scrutinized, I’m expecting that. We’re getting scrutinized for why we didn’t go in there,’ he said.
He then reiterated his rationale from the day.
‘I know what the firepower [the shooter] had, based on what shells I saw, the holes in the wall in the room next to his. I also know I had students that were around there that weren’t in the immediate threat besides the ones I know were in the immediate threat and the preservation of life around, everything around him, I felt was priority,’ he said.
‘Because I know there’s probably victims in there and with the shots I heard, I know there’s probably somebody who’s going to be deceased.’
During the interview, Arredondo was asked what advice he would give to the next police department that had to deal with a school shooting.
‘Never minimize your training, never minimize your equipment, and never minimize your communication,’ he said.
A minute-by-minute break down of how cops waited outside class while kids called 911 after gunman walked through door that had been propped open by a teacher
11.28am: Gunman crashes truck, gets out of car with AR-15. He is seen by witnesses in a funeral home next to the school who tell 911 they see a man with a gun walking towards the school
11.31: Gunman is now in the parking lot of the school hiding in between vehicles, shooting at the building
11.32: School resource officer who arrives in a patrol car after hearing 911 call about truck crash drives past the shooter
11.33: Gunman enters the school and begins shooting into room 111/room 112. He shoots more than 100 rounds
11.35: Three police officers enter the same propped-open door as the suspect from the Uvalde PD. They were later followed by another four, making total of seven officers on scene. Three initial officers went directly to the door and got grazing wounds from him while the door was closed. They hang back
11.37: Another 16 rounds fired inside the classroom by the gunman
11.51: Police sergeant and USB agents arrive
12.03: Officers continue to arrive in the hallway. As many as 19 officers in that hallway at that time. At the same time, a girl from inside the classroom calls 911 and whispers that she is in room 112
12.10pm: The same girl calls back and advises ‘there are multiple dead’
12.13pm: The same girl calls again
12.16pm: The same girl calls 911 for the fourth time in 13 minutes asking for help
12.15pm: BORTAC (SWAT) members arrive with shields
12.16pm: The same unidentified girl calls 911 and says there are ‘8-9 students alive’ in classroom 112
12.19pm: A different child from classroom 111 calls. She hangs up when another student tells her to in order to be quiet
12.21pm: Gunman fires again
12.26pm: One of the girls who previously called 911 calls back again. She says the shooter has just ‘shot at the door’
12.43pm: The girl on that girl is still on the line. She says ‘please send the police now’
12.50pm: Police finally breach the door using keys from the janitor and kill gunman
12.51pm Officers start moving children out of the room