• Mon. Sep 25th, 2023


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No Radio, Old Tactics: How the Police Response in Uvalde Broke Down

One child shouted, “I’m shot,” catching the attention of the gunman. He came back to the spot where the child was lying and shot the student again, killing him, Khloie said.

Chief Arredondo arrived at 11:35 a.m., as the first officers began moving into the hallway outside the classroom door. Two minutes later, a lieutenant and a sergeant from the Uvalde Police Department approached the door, and were grazed by bullets.

Shortly after that, Chief Arredondo placed a phone call from the scene, reaching a police department landline. He described the situation and requested a radio, a rifle and a contingent of heavily armed officers, according to the law enforcement official familiar with the initial response, who described it on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly disclose the details.

The decision to establish a perimeter outside the classroom, a little over five minutes after the shooting began, shifted the police response from one in which every officer would try to confront the gunman as fast as possible to one where officers treated the gunman as barricaded and no longer killing. Instead of storming the classroom, a decision was made to deploy a negotiator and to muster a more heavily armed and shielded tactical entry force.

“They made a poor decision, defining that as a hostage-barricade situation,” said Bill Francis, a former F.B.I. agent who was a senior leader on the bureau’s hostage rescue team for 17 years. “The longer you delay in finding and eliminating that threat, the longer he has to continue to kill other victims.”

Inside, the gunman moved between the two adjoining classrooms. After he left her room, Khloie said, she called out quietly: “Is anybody OK? Is anybody hurt?”

“Yeah,” one classmate replied.

“Just be quiet, so he doesn’t come back in here,” Khloie remembered responding. Another child asked for help getting Ms. Garcia’s body off her.