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1 month after the Uvalde massacre, new revelations continue to deepen community grief

A month has passed since a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, and a series of new revelations about the May 24 shooting have done little to quell the frustrations of residents of Uvalde as they continue to heal.

State and local officials have spent weeks trying to reconcile incomplete and, at times, conflicting reports of the shooting and the questionable police response. And although several investigations are underway – including one led by the US Department of Justice – some critical facts remain elusive in the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in the nation’s history.

Some information emerged this week when Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, whose agency is leading one of the investigations, testified before the Texas state legislature. McCraw, who presented an updated timeline of events which he said was based on CCTV and police communications, called the police response a “dismal failure” and offered what appeared to be the most telling account. fuller of what happened during the murderous rampage.

According to McCraw, enough officers and equipment arrived at the scene within three minutes to “neutralize” the 18-year-old shooter. He also made the startling claim that the door to the classroom containing the shooter could have been unlocked all along – even though officers waited over an hour to find a key that would open it.

“One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds. That’s the time the children waited, and the teachers waited, in rooms 111 and 112 to be rescued,” McCraw said. “And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for radios and guns. Then he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Finally, he waited for a key that was never needed.”

Police arrived on the scene almost immediately, but failed to overcome logistical and communication issues in time to limit the carnage. McCraw said officers struggled to communicate because their radios had no reception inside the building, contributing to a leadership vacuum that crippled police response.

McCraw reserved his harshest criticism for Pete Arredondo, the embattled school district’s police chief who was the incident commander on the scene. McCraw called Arredondo “the only thing keeping a corridor of dedicated officers from entering” classrooms and killing the shooter.

Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo speaks during a news conference following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022.

American Statesman from Austin via USA Today Network, FILE

“[Arredondo] decided to put the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said.

McCraw’s condemnation of Arredondo added to a growing chorus of outrage at the police response on May 24. The emotional accounts of survivors and first responders to Congress and in the press cast a critical eye on law enforcement.

“They are cowards,” Professor Arnulfo Reyes, who lost 11 students and suffered multiple gunshot wounds, told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “They sit there and have done nothing for our community. They took a long time to come in…I will never forgive them.”

Meanwhile, after several weeks of community members calling for Arredondo to step down, the Uvalde school principal placed Arredondo on administrative leave on Wednesday. Arredondo did not respond to ABC News’ multiple requests for comment.

“He should never be allowed to work in law enforcement again,” a community member from Uvalde, ABC affiliate KSAT, said Wednesday. “My personal opinion.”

Many residents of Uvalde say the changing narrative has sparked immense distrust of the authorities – while the lack of information has brought little comfort to relatives of the victims. A number of family members are hoping an upcoming report from the county medical examiner will answer some of their most pressing questions.

“[The medical examiner] can tell us more or less what happened to our child. Has been [her death] immediate or could she have been saved if [police] got in faster?” Kim Rubio, the mother of Uvalde victim Lexi Rubio, told ABC News’ Mireya Villareal. “I just think about the time she was there. Was she afraid? Was she in pain? It just worries me.”

Requests for investigative documents also reached new heights this week, sparking a new round of infighting between officials.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin on Tuesday accused McCraw of “[having] an agenda, and it’s not about presenting a full report on what happened and giving factual answers to the families of this community.”

On Wednesday, a Texas state senator who represents Uvalde filed a lawsuit against McCraw’s agency for access to his investigative records. The Department of Public Safety has not responded to the lawsuit or McLaughlin’s criticisms.

1 month after the Uvalde massacre, new revelations continue to deepen community grief

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw uses photos of doors to present what happened to the keys and doors in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde to the Senate Select Committee of Texas to Protect All Texans during the hearing at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas June 21, 2022.

Sara Diggins/USA Today Network via Reuters

“From the very beginning, the response to this horrific gun tragedy has been replete with misinformation and outright lies by our government,” said Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, in an eight-page complaint.

During his appearance before the state legislature on Tuesday, McCraw said the district attorney covering Uvalde, Christina Busbee, told him to cease all contact with lawmakers and the press. McCraw has pledged to release investigation files and CCTV footage from the shooting once Busbee approves their release.

Residents of Uvalde say they hope they won’t have to wait much longer.

ABC News

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