The school district police chief, who served as the on-site commander during last week’s fatal shooting in Uvalde, Texas, said Wednesday he is talking daily with investigators, claims state law enforcement. Denying that they have stopped cooperating.
In a brief interview, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo told Nation World News that he is speaking regularly with the Texas Department of Public Safety investigators.
“I’ve been on the phone with him every day,” Arredondo said. The chief has been the center of anger in the community and goes beyond allegations that he delayed sending officers to the school on 24 May, believing the gunman was stopped inside nearby classrooms and that the children were no longer at risk. Were.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the attack at Rob Elementary School, the deadliest school in nearly a decade. The funeral began this week, and US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona attended on Wednesday the services of teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the attack, and her husband, Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later. Went.
The district announced Wednesday that students and staff would not return to that campus, although plans are still being finalized that fewer than 600 students will attend classes in the fall.
watch: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he was ‘misleaded’ about police response to Uvalde school shooting
Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said Wednesday that his office is working with state and federal agencies to request upwards of $45 million in federal funding for the school.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, its School Emergency Response to Violence, known as Project SERV, funds short-term education-related services to help educational facilities “recover from a violent or traumatic event” in which The learning environment has been disrupted. ,
Gutierrez said he was unaware of any plans to disband Rob Elementary, but funds received through the program by other schools have traditionally been used to rebuild.
State officials have said 19 police officers waited for more than an hour outside the classroom where Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire despite repeated requests from children who called 911 for help.
Texas Department of Public Safety chief communications officer Travis Considine said Tuesday that Arredondo had not responded to DPS requests for two days, while other officers from Uvalde city and schools police departments sit down for interviews and make statements. .
Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Associated Press. Considine told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Arredondo had not responded to Texas Rangers’ requests for follow-up interviews until Tuesday. The Texas Rangers – the investigative arm of the Department of Public Security that focuses on major crimes – did not receive an immediate response to Arredondo’s insistence that he was in regular contact with the DPS.
The United Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which represents police officers, has urged its members to cooperate with “all government investigations” into the shooting and police response, and supports a federal investigation by the Justice Department.
The misleading and sometimes conflicting information released in the weeks since the fatal shooting continued on Tuesday with the revelation that the exterior door used by the gunman was not left open by a teacher, as police previously said.
They have now determined that the teacher, who has not been identified, opened the door with a rock, but then removed the rock and closed the door when she learned there was a shooter on the premises, Considine said. But, Considine said, the door it was designed to close didn’t close.
“We verified that it did lock the door. The door didn’t close. We know that a lot and now investigators are investigating why it didn’t lock,” Considine said.
Considine said the teacher initially held the door open, but ran back inside to get his phone and called 911 when Ramos crashed his truck on campus.
“She got back on her phone, she heard someone shouting, ‘He has a gun!’ Removed the rock, Considine said.
Since the shooting, law enforcement and state officials have struggled to offer an accurate timeline and description of the incident and how police responded, sometimes providing conflicting information or withholding some statements hours later. State police have said that some accounts were preliminary and may change as more witnesses are interviewed.
watch: How police officers should have reacted to the Texas elementary school shooting
On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott asked top lawmakers to convene a legislative committee to examine “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety and more” and make recommendations.
The next Texas legislative session is set for January 2023, although some lawmakers have urged Abbott to convene a special session in response to the shooting.
After previous mass shootings at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School and a Walmart in El Paso, Abbott called “round table” discussions, which sometimes involved survivors and victims’ families.
Following the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, lawmakers in 2019 approved $100 million for schools to improve campus security with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, shooter alarm systems and other security measures. They allowed more teachers to carry guns on campus and be trained in campus shooter response.
But Abbott and state lawmakers resisted calls for stricter gun ownership measures. In 2021, Abbott signed into law a measure that allows people 21 and older to carry a handgun without a license or training.
Vertuno reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.