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Uvalde school police chief defends shooting response as grim new details emerge

New details emerged Thursday night about the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, especially the 77 tragic minutes between the gunman's first murder and police shooting him dead. At the center of the revelations is the Uvalde school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, who told his side of events for the first time in interviews with The Texas Tribune

Records obtained by The New York Times show that police officers armed with long guns were among the first to arrive in the hallway outside Rooms 111 and 112, where the gunman killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers.

At least some officers, and likely Arredondo, were aware that teachers and students were badly wounded during the long period they hovered down the hallway, waiting for protective equipment and a key to the locked rooms, the Times reports.

"People are going to ask why we're taking so long," a man believed to be Arredondo is heard saying in body camera footage. "We're trying to preserve the rest of the life."

Xavier Lopez, one of three wounded students who died later in the hospital, "could have been saved," his grandfather Leonard Sandoval told the Times. "The police did not go in for more than an hour. He bled out." One of the teachers, Eva Mireles, died in the ambulance ride to the hospital. She had called her husband, school district police officer Ruben Ruiz, to say she was shot, and Ruiz relayed the information to other officers at 11:48 a.m., a full hour before Border Patrol agents entered the classroom.

"Whether the inability of police to quickly enter the classroom prevented the 21 victims ... from getting life-saving care is not known, and may never be," The Texas Tribune reports. Some might have survived, but "many of the victims likely died instantly. A pediatrician who attended to the victims described small bodies 'pulverized' and 'decapitated.' Some children were identifiable only by their clothes and shoes."

Arredondo — who attended Robb Elementary as a child, as did the shooter — told the Tribune there was no way to enter the locked, reinforced doors without a key, and all the keys he was brought didn't work. He said the classroom lights were out, a lockdown precaution, so police couldn't pinpoint the gunman or assess his victims. And he said he never considered himself the incident commander, despite what state police say.