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Uvalde shooting: police chief Pete Arredondo didn’t get kids 911 calls – USA TODAY

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D - San Antonio, talks to Leon Hernandez, 9, on the courthouse square in Uvalde on Thursday June 2, 2022, days after the third-grader survived a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

UVALDE, Texas — On the day a gunman massacred 21 people at Robb Elementary, the 911 calls from terrified children inside the school were not relayed to school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was the incident commander, said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez on Thursday. 

Arredondo has faced blistering criticism for holding back law enforcement for more than an hour before federal agents confronted the shooter and killed him. Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said last week that Arredondo wrongly determined that no more lives were at risk and was treating the situation as a barricaded subject, not an active shooter.

Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, said he was informed by officials at the Commission on State Emergency Communications that the 911 calls were received by the Uvalde Police Department and not directly relayed to Arredondo during the shooting, despite multiple law enforcement agencies being on the scene. 

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Officials with the Commission on State Emergency Communications did not respond to a request for comment. 

“I’m not blaming the Uvalde PD, I’m not blaming the ISD cops or the troopers, or anybody singularly,” Gutierrez said at Thursday’s news conference outside the Uvalde County Courthouse. “There is blame enough here to go around. There was human error, and there was system error.” 

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D - San Antonio, cries while speaking at a news conference on the courthouse square in Uvalde on Thursday June 2, 2022, days after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Gutierrez said the communication failures were in part due to the many law enforcement agencies contracting with different radio companies, rather than being on one uniform network. 

Still, he said it’s unclear whether the information from the 911 calls was relayed to the many law enforcement agencies on the scene, including the 19 officers in the hallway outside the rooms where the shooter was located. Gutierrez also said he’s unsure whether Uvalde Police Department officers attempted to take over command at the scene.  

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Gutierrez said he is seeking the identities and affiliations of the officers who had entered the school and were waiting in the hallway. He said McCraw had said Friday that he would release the names to Gutierrez, who added that he would release them to the news media. 

Gutierrez expressed frustration about the shifting narratives offered by top Texas officials about the law enforcement response and the many lingering questions about the incident. 

“We need transparency, and that hasn’t happened here,” Gutierrez said.

The catastrophic attack has devastated the tight-knit Uvalde community, which is now burdened with the heartbreaking task of burying 21 people, including 19 children. The first funerals took place Tuesday.

Patricia Luna, left, and Patricia Guajardo cry while listening to State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D - San Antonio, speak at a news conference on the courthouse square in Uvalde on Thursday June 2, 2022, days after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

As residents await answers on why it took so long for law enforcement officers to stop the gunman, they are also demanding action from state authorities to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again. Lawmakers, however, are divided on how to proceed. 

Democrats, including Gutierrez, are calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to call lawmakers back for a special session in Austin to address gun control measures, such as raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase a rifle, requiring a cooling-off period before a buyer can take possession of a purchased firearm, enacting mandatory background checks before all firearm sales, passing “red flag” laws, and limiting the availability of high-capacity magazines.

Republicans though, historically have opposed such ideas, instead advocating for increased security at schools, including arming teachers, and improved mental health services. Abbott said last Friday that “all options are on the table,” but in a recorded address to the National Rifle Association on the same day, the governor said he opposed restricting any gun rights.

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State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D - San Antonio, walks away after speaking at a news conference on the courthouse square in Uvalde on Thursday June 2, 2022, days after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

On Wednesday, Abbott directed the state House and Senate to convene special committees to study school safety and mass shootings, and develop recommendations for how the Legislature can address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene for the next legislative session until January. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has named the eight Republicans and three Democrats who will sit on the special committee, but the list doesn’t include Gutierrez, which he called “a slap in the face to the people of Uvalde.” 

But he directed most of his criticism toward Abbott.

“Greg Abbott, like those members (of the special Senate committee) know, like you know, exactly what happened here,” Gutierrez said. “They know exactly what system failure happened here, what human failure happened here. And they know what policy legislative failure happened here. We all have the knowledge we need. What we lack is a governor with the fortitude to do the right thing on a problem that is staring him square in the face.”

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