Uvalde school shooting surveillance video fuels scrutiny over delayed law enforcement response
(CNN) — Surveillance video of law enforcement’s response during the Uvalde school massacre gives the clearest account yet of how officers waited outside an elementary classroom as the gunman continued firing, killing 21 students and teachers on May 24.
The video – published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper Tuesday, in a decision that enraged families of the victims who had yet to see the footage themselves – shows responding officers approaching the door of the classroom within minutes of the shooter entering, yet retreating after the gunman opened fire at them.
After more than an hour – with the hallway growing more crowded with officers from different agencies – the doorway of the classroom was breached by law enforcement and the gunman was shot and killed.
The leak and subsequent release of the footage was particularly painful for the victims’ families, including a group of parents and relatives who said they were blindsided Tuesday while in Washington, DC, to speak with elected officials. They expected to see the footage Sunday, when the Texas House Committee investigating the shooting planned to show it to the families before releasing it to the public.
“We get blindsided by a leak,” said Angel Garza, whose 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, was killed. “Who do you think you are to release footage like that of our children who can’t even speak for themselves, but you want to go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world? What makes you think that’s OK?”
The video, lightly edited by the American-Statesman to blur at least one child’s identity and to remove the sound of children screaming, still leaves some questions unanswered – in particular, why the law enforcement response was so delayed.
“They just didn’t act. They just didn’t move,” Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza said on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday. “I just don’t know what was going through those policemen’s minds that tragic day, but … there was just no action on their part.”
The video also does not answer the question of “who, if anybody, was in charge,” state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) told CNN on Tuesday.
“Even if we see 77 minutes in a hallway, it’s not going to tell us who was in charge or who should have been in charge. And I think that’s the sad statement of what happened on May 24 is that no one was in charge.”
Gutierrez criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety for having a multitude of officers on site yet not taking control of the situation. The state agency has consistently pointed to Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, as the on-scene commander during the attack.
Arredondo was placed on leave as school district police chief in June and has not given substantial public statements about his decision-making that day despite intense public scrutiny, though he told the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself to be the leader on the scene. On Tuesday, the Uvalde City Council accepted his resignation from his position as councilman.
Families of the victims said they were disturbed by the leaked footage, saying it was just the latest in a long line of examples of their wishes being pushed to the side. Officials say they had planned to show the footage to families this weekend before releasing it publicly.
“There’s no reason for the families to see that,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said of the leak. “I mean, they were going to see the video, but they didn’t need to see the gunman coming in and hear the gunshots. They don’t need to relive that, they’ve been through enough,” he said.