Uvalde school police chief says he’s cooperating with probe into shooting response – National

Sheriff of the school district, who served as the on-site commander last week fatal shooting in Uvalde, Texas, said Wednesday that he is speaking daily with investigators, contradicting a statement from state law enforcement that he has ceased to cooperate.

In a brief interview, Uvalde Independent School District Sheriff Pete Arredondo told CNN that he regularly talks with Texas Department of Public Safety investigators.

“I was on the phone with them every day,” Arredondo said. The sheriff has become the focus of outrage in the community and beyond over allegations that he delayed sending officers into the school on May 24, believing the gunman was barricaded outside. in adjoining classrooms and the shooting turned into a hostage situation.

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Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the attack at Robb Elementary, the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade. Funeral services began this week, and US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona attended Wednesday’s funeral 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, although plans are still being worked out for where fewer than 600 students will attend classes in the fall.

Senator Roland Gutierrez of Texas said Wednesday that his office is working with federal and state agencies to request up to $45 million in federal funding for the school.

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Uvalde struggles with school principal’s role in Texas shooting: ‘Very angry’

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

Gutierrez said he was not aware of any plans to demolish Robb Elementary but that money raised through other schools’ programs has traditionally been used for rebuilding.

State officials said police waited more than an hour outside the classroom where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire, despite repeated pleas from children to call 911 for help. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said there were at one point 19 officers in the hallway.

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Click to play video: 'Uvalde police inactivity focal point of Texas school shooting investigation'

Uvalde police not focused on Texas school shooting investigation

Uvalde police not focused on Texas school shooting investigation

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told the media in an interview Wednesday that he arrived at the funeral home across from the school about 15 minutes after the “first call” arrived that Ramos had hit his truck. he’s nearby. McLaughlin said that while at the funeral home, he was standing near an official he only identified as a “negotiator.” He said the person tried unsuccessfully to reach the gunman via cell phone.

“His main goal was to try to call this person,” McLaughlin said in interviews with Telemundo San Antonio and The Washington Post. “They tried every number they could find,” but the gunman didn’t pick up.

Travis Considine, communications director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday that Arredondo did not respond to a DPS request for two days, while other officers in the city of Uvalde and police departments continued to respond. continue to sit for interviews and make statements.

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Arredondo did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Associated Press. Considine told the AP Wednesday that Arredondo has not responded to a request by the Texas Rangers for follow-up interviews since Tuesday. The Texas Rangers – the investigative branch of the Department of Public Safety that focuses on major crimes – did not comment on Arredondo’s insistence that he is in regular contact with the DPS.

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Police say teachers closed their doors before mass school shooting in Texas

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

Confusing and sometimes contradictory information has been released in the week since the deadly shooting continued on Tuesday with the revelation that the outside door used by the gunman was not left open by the teacher, like police said earlier.

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

Since the shooting happened, law enforcement and state officials have struggled to put together an exact and detailed schedule of the event and how police responded, sometimes providing information. contradict or withdraw the statement a few hours later. State police said some accounts are preliminary and could change as more witnesses are interviewed.

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Click to play video: 'Sadness, anger grows as funerals begin for Uvalde school shooting victims'

Sadness, anger rise as funeral begins for victims of Uvalde school shooting

Sadness, anger rise as funeral begins for victims of Uvalde school shooting

On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state to conduct in-person security checks of the school district, including random, unannounced visits to “intruder detection” to school districts. schools “to find weak points and how fast they can penetrate buildings without being stopped”.

“This will improve accountability and ensure school districts are following through with the plans they create,” Abbott said in a letter to the head of the Texas Center for School Safety at the University of California. State of Texas. Texas has more than 1,200 school districts, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Abbott also asked top lawmakers to convene a legislative committee to examine and make recommendations on “school safety, mental health, social media, police training, safety.” weapons and more.” Texas’ next legislative session is scheduled for January 2023, although some lawmakers have urged Abbott to convene a special session in response to the shootings.

Following previous mass shootings at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School and a Walmart in El Paso, Abbott convened “roundtable” discussions, sometimes involving people survivors and victims’ families.

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Texas governor says he was ‘confused’ about police response to Uvalde school shooting

Following the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, legislators in 2019 approved $100 million for schools to improve campus safety with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, and more. , fire alarm system and other safety measures. They also allow more teachers to carry guns on campus and receive training on how to respond to campus shooters.

However, Abbott and state lawmakers have resisted calls for stricter gun ownership measures. In 2021, Abbott signed into law a measure allowing people 21 and older to carry handguns without a license or training. In Uvalde on Wednesday, Ramos’ mother was denied service at the drive. Adriana Reyes then walked into an adjoining convenience store, where the cashier said she would not be served.

She declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter at the scene, saying: “I don’t want to be rude but I don’t want to say anything.”

Vertuno reports from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon in Uvalde; Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; and Acacia Coronado of Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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