Uvalde shooting: Questions remain about what the top Texas law enforcement agency did and didn’t know about the school shooting


Uvalde, Texas
CNN

New audio data obtained by CNN shows that Texas top law enforcement knew children were trapped at Robb Elementary more than 30 minutes before someone shot the shooter and rescued her.

Less than two minutes after Acting Uvalde Police Commissioner Lt. Mariano Pargas, who received details that children were alive amidst classmates being massacred in their classroom, essentially the same information was shared with someone at the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Pargas, 65, resigned on Thursday, two days before a “special session” called by the city of Uvalde to decide his fate. The rare Saturday night meeting was scheduled after CNN revealed he knew a girl from the classroom was calling to say eight or nine children were still alive and that he had failed to organize help.

It is not clear how DPS’s internal investigation deals with communication errors. The department said it was reviewing the actions of the 91 DPS officers who made it to Robb Elementary School on May 24, the day 19 children and two teachers died while a gunman stayed in classrooms for 77 minutes hidden.

Those errors included what happened at the Austin headquarters, as well as how information was shared over the phone, text messages, and radio.

New audio obtained by CNN reveals a woman from “DPS in Austin” calling Uvalde Police dispatchers for more information that appears to be made available to specialized DPS teams, including SWAT .

The caller is visibly shocked to learn that the murders happened in an elementary school.

“Robb Elementary? Oh my god,” she says.

When the dispatcher tells her, “We have multiple DOAs (deaths),” she interrupts, “Are you kidding me?”

“I’m not,” replies the dispatcher.

“Oh my God,” sighs the DPS employee. “OK.”

She gets details about the shooter and that he is still at school with students before ending the call around 12:20 p.m

CNN does not know the caller’s rank within the DPS, nor where they might have transmitted the information within their agency.

DPS did not respond to CNN’s questions about the call and the events that followed.

But it is clear that the information from the phone call between Uvalde and Austin – that children were at school with the shooter and that people have already been killed – was not sufficiently shared.

The statewide DPS assists local law enforcement agencies with larger incidents and has specialized equipment and teams that smaller city and county forces may not have.

Many teams were sent to Uvalde, but they were not given the critical information that should have expedited the response and focused on stopping the killer and rescuing the victims rather than waiting it out.

While Pargas could have changed the dynamics of the stalled operation, as could other leaders on the ground, so could DPS chiefs.

But the urgency of children and teachers needing help seems to have subsided in a communications swamp.

Capt. John Miller, the DPS-SWAT commander, deployed his entire team when they were notified of the active gunman around noon on May 24, although nearly all were at least 175 miles away, he told an investigator, according to interview recordings obtained by CNN .

But once they were underway, they didn’t get any new information, he said. “Initially they said there was a gunman barricaded but he’s shooting at police at a school,” he said. “After that, there was no information as to whether there were any hostages.”

He said he then spent many minutes trying to figure out what was going on so he could make an appropriate plan and critically consider any innocent people with the shooter.

“For the next 40 minutes, I tried a series of phone calls and messages on my end to find out,” he told investigators.

Only one member of Miller’s team made it to Robb Elementary before police broke into the classroom at 12:50 p.m. and killed the shooter

And his first task was to find out if children were trapped.

“I spoke to the highway patrol sergeant and asked them if there were any children in the building where the shooter was located,” said Staff Sgt. Lucas Patterson told a Texas Ranger investigating the response, according to the records, received by CNN. “She wasn’t sure what she was trying to verify based on information.”

The failed information flow did not only affect the DPS SWAT team mentioned in the 12:18 call to the Uvalde dispatcher.

DPS Captain Joel Betancourt told investigators: “The only thing that was reported was that it was a barricaded subject. No more shots were fired. We didn’t know there were children or other injured people in the building like we do now. Back then it was just one person in a room.”

Despite this, Betancourt radioed the breach team to halt their advance toward the classroom, believing a better team was on the way, CNN previously reported. Nobody answered his call.

That burglary, which stopped the gunman, came more than 30 minutes after Pargas and DPS received details of the trapped children.

The actions of the DPS that day and shortly thereafter, as senior executives gave conflicting accounts of what happened and how they were tasked with investigating the response, continue to worry Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who again told CNN this week he believe it was a cover up. DPS Director Steven McCraw has dismissed that suggestion.

A total of 376 law enforcement officers from 23 agencies — including 91 DPS men and women — responded to the Robb massacre.

An arsenal of specialized equipment was deployed along with personnel, much of it from DPS, apparently with no clear plan as to whether it was needed.

“Two DPS helicopters, one with an UP package – an air gunner – and that will take about 25 to 30 minutes,” an officer tells Uvalde just after 12:30 p.m., after requesting and receiving a “real-time update.” has confirmed the location was Robb Elementary, adding: “I’m trying not to be a pest but we’re trying to coordinate.”

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