Uvalde school police chief says he is always cooperating

The school district police chief who served as the on-scene commander in last week’s deadly shooting in UvaldeTexas, said Wednesday he spoke with investigators daily, contradicting claims by state law enforcement that he had stopped cooperating.

In a brief interview, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo told CNN he speaks regularly with investigators from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“I’ve been on the phone with them every day,” Arredondo said. The chief has been at the center of community anger and beyond allegations that he delayed sending officers to the school on May 24, believing that the shooter was barricaded in nearby classrooms and that the children were no longer in danger.

Nineteen children and two teachers died in the Robb Elementary School attack, the deadliest shooting in nearly a decade. The funeral has begun this week, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona attended Wednesday’s services for teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the attack, and her husband, Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later.

The district announced Wednesday that students and staff will not be returning to that campus, though plans are still being finalized on where the fewer than 600 students will attend classes in the fall.

Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said Wednesday his office is working with state and federal agencies to seek more than $45 million in federal funding for the school.

According to the US Department of Education, its School Emergency Response to Violence, known as Project SERV, “funds short-term education-related services” to help educational institutions “recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted”. .”

Gutierrez said he was not aware of any Robb Elementary demolition plans, but funds raised through the program by other schools have traditionally been used to rebuild.

State officials said 19 police officers waited more than an hour outside the classroom where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire, despite repeated pleas from children calling 911 for help. assistance..

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Texas Department of Public Safety communications officer Travis Considine said Tuesday that Arredondo had not responded to DPS inquiries for two days, while other officers from the city’s police departments and schools d’Uvalde continue to sit for interviews and provide statements.

Arredondo did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press. Considine told the AP on Wednesday that Arredondo did not respond to requests for follow-up interviews from the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. The Texas Rangers – the investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety that focuses on major crimes – had no immediate response to Arredondo’s insistence that he was in regular contact with the DPS. .

The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which represents police officers, urged its members to cooperate with “all government investigations” into the shooting and the police response, and endorsed a federal investigation by the Justice Department.

The confusing and sometimes contradictory reports released in the week since the deadly shooting continued on Tuesday with the revelation that the exterior door used by the shooter was not left open by a teacher.as the police said previously.

They have now determined that the teacher, who has not been identified, held the door open with a stone, but then removed the stone and closed the door when she realized there was a shooter on campus, Considine said. But, Considine said, the door that was designed to lock when closed did not lock.

“We checked that she had closed the door. The door didn’t lock. We know a lot about it and now investigators are looking into why it didn’t lock,” Considine said.

Considine said the teacher initially opened the door, but came back inside to pick up her phone and call 911 when Ramos crashed his truck on campus.

“She came out while she was on the phone, she heard someone yelling, ‘He’s got a gun! said Considine.

Since the shooting, law enforcement and state officials have struggled to present a specific timeline and the details of the event and the police reaction, sometimes providing conflicting information or withdrawing certain statements hours later. State police said some accounts were preliminary and could change as more witnesses are interviewed.

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott asked key lawmakers to convene a legislative committee to review and make recommendations on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, gun safety and more.” Again”.

Texas’ next legislative session is scheduled for January 2023, though some lawmakers have urged Abbott to call a special session in response to the shooting.

After previous mass shootings at First Baptist Church in Sutherland SpringsSanta Fe High School and a Walmart in El PasoAbbott convened “roundtables”, sometimes involving survivors and families of victims.

After the 2018 Santa Fe High School Shooting, lawmakers in 2019 approved $100 million for schools to improve campus security with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, gunshot alarm systems and other security measures. They also allowed more teachers to carry weapons on campus and to be trained in campus shooter response.

But Abbott and state lawmakers have resisted calls for tougher measures on gun ownership. In 2021, Abbott enacted a measure that allows people 21 and older to carry handguns without a license or training.

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Read more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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Vertuno reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.

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