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Uvalde state senator raises questions on whether 911 call information was relayed to shooting incident commander

Jun 3, 2022, 5:32 AM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 8:53 pm
People gather at Robb Elementary School, the scene of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 25...
People gather at Robb Elementary School, the scene of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 25, 2022. REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona

(CNN) — Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez raised questions in a news conference on Thursday about whether information on 911 calls from inside Robb Elementary School was relayed properly to responders at the scene of the shooting.

Gutierrez said he spoke with the agency that regulates the 911 calls, the Commission on State Emergency Communications, and was told the 911 calls were handled by and relayed to the city’s police force on the scene. However, what is unclear, is if that information was relayed to the school district police chief who was the incident commander on the scene.

“They were being communicated to a Uvalde police officer and the state agency that I have spoken to has not told me who that is,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez also said he wants to know more about what was happening at the school that day.

“I want to know where the cops were in that room. I want to know how many of my cops were in there, how many state troopers were there. I want to know how many state troopers were outside. I want to know how many federal officers were inside for 19 minutes, I mean for 45 minutes,” Gutierrez told reporters.

“I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls,” he said.

CNN has contacted the Commission on State Emergency Communications, Uvalde Police and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District for comment on Gutierrez’s statements.

The state senator also said that Texas Department of Public Safety Col. Steven McCraw told him he would receive information about the identities of the 19 officers who were in the hallway outside the classroom where the shooter was located, on Friday. Gutierrez promised to share that information with media once received.

“I urge you, do not allow these people to hide behind a district attorney investigation on procedural matters. Do not allow anybody, do not allow this governor to hide behind the local district attorney on these procedural failures, on these policy failures, under the guise that we’re looking at a criminal investigation,” the state senator urged.

“There’s been a lot of failure here,” he said.

School district Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo was identified last week by DPS as the commanding officer who decided not to breach the adjoining classrooms where a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers.

Arredondo spoke exclusively to CNN on Wednesday and declined to answer substantive questions about the massacre.

Search warrants have been issued for teen gunman Salvador Ramos’ cell phone, the truck he was driving, and his grandparents’ home, according to court records obtained by CNN.

One warrant, signed Wednesday by Uvalde County District Court Judge Camille DuBose, allows law enforcement to perform a forensic download of Ramos’ iPhone 13 Pro Max, which was found next to his body after he was fatally shot by police.

During the bloodbath, a negotiator tried to call the shooter, but he didn’t respond, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told reporters Wednesday.

“They tried every number they could find that he was associated with,” McLaughlin said.

Now, this city engulfed in grief is also tormented by shifting police narrativesunanswered questions and the horror of knowing 21 victims were trapped with a gunman for more than an hour — despite repeated 911 calls for help from inside the classrooms.

 

A teacher’s last call to her husband

 

In the 77 minutes of bloodshed at the Texas elementary school, teacher Eva Mireles spent some of her final breaths on the phone with her husband, telling him she was dying, Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell told The New York Times after being briefed by sheriff’s deputies.

But Mireles’ husband — school district police officer Ruben Ruiz — wasn’t able to save his wife and 20 other victims massacred at Robb Elementary School.

Ruiz was among the many law enforcement officers to respond to the school during that attack.

“She’s in the classroom and he’s outside. It’s terrifying,” Mitchell told the Times on Wednesday.

In Texas, county judges are the county’s executive and top official.

Mitchell said he didn’t know the exact words exchanged between the teacher and the school district police officer. But the core message was devastating.

“He’s outside hearing his wife: ‘I’m dying,'” Mitchell told the Times.

He said he didn’t know whether Ruiz relayed details of his phone call with his wife to Arredondo, who was the incident commander during the massacre.

The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the incident commander believed the scene was no longer an active shooter situation, but a barricaded person scenario. It’s not clear why.

Established law enforcement policy, created in the wake of the Columbine school shooting of 1999, calls for police to stop the gunman as fast as possible in an active shooter situation.

Speaking exclusively to CNN on Wednesday, Arredondo said he won’t release any further information while funerals are ongoing.

“We’re going to be respectful to the family,” said Arredondo, who was sworn in as a new city council member Tuesday.

“We’re going to do that eventually,” the school district police chief said. “Whenever this is done and the families quit grieving, then we’ll do that obviously.”

 

‘It was an honor’ to spend final moments with a heroic teacher

 

In this small city, everyone knows someone deeply impacted by the massacre.

After border patrol tactical agents ultimately breached the classrooms and killed the 18-year-old gunman, a Texas DPS trooper saw the carnage and found a gravely wounded friend.

It was Mireles — the teacher who told her husband she was dying.

“It was an honor to spend the last moment with Eva as she left this Earth to go to a greater place,” DPS Trooper Juan Maldonado told CNN affiliate KSAT.

Maldonado met Mireles and her husband years ago when their daughters joined the same soccer team, KSAT reported.

“She protected her students,” Maldonado said. “She’s a hero to everyone, and she’s a hero to the family and to Uvalde.”

Mireles’ funeral is scheduled for June 10.

Funeral services for the other teacher killed, Irma Garcia, and her husband, Joe Garcia, took place Wednesday. Joe Garcia died of a heart attack two days after his wife was gunned down. The couple’s family attributed his death to a broken heart.

 

Where the investigation stands now

 

Local, state and federal investigators will scour the still evolving details of the massacre to try to understand what went so horrifically wrong.

Right now, the Texas Rangers are investigating the mass tragedy. Once the agency completes its probe, Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Busbee said she will review the report and determine how to proceed.

“The Rangers will complete their investigation. I will review it and then we will see if there are any criminal charges that need to be brought,” Busbee said.

At the same time, the US Justice Department said it will review the law enforcement response to the deadly rampage.

The review aims “to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events,” a Justice Department spokesperson said.

While the investigations haven’t been completed, some notions are abundantly clear, said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA).

He said the incident commander’s belief that the shooter was no longer active and the decision to not immediately bust into the classroom were “100% flawed.”

“If you’re in a classroom with innocent victims, and I know that shots have been fired, I need to engage you,” Eells said. “Even if you stopped firing, I’m going to make entry into the room so we can begin to administer life-saving aid to any potential victims.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of Eva Mireles’ funeral. It is June 10.

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Uvalde state senator raises questions on whether 911 call information was relayed to shooting incident commander