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Calls from Uvalde show pleas for help from inside school long before police confronted shooter

The Texas Tribune and ProPublica released the 911 audio Tuesday. The law enforcement response has been widely condemned.

Dispatch calls released Tuesday by two news organizations chronicle the panic and fear inside classrooms as students and teachers waited to be rescued from a gunman who went on to kill 19 children and two educators at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

The disturbing audio released by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica includes 911 calls from a hiding teacher and a child who was trapped, calling with muffled voices.

The law enforcement response to the shooting May 24 has been widely condemned as a failure.

Uvalde police officers enter Robb Elementary School in Texas on May 24.
Uvalde police officers enter Robb Elementary School in Texas on May 24.American Statesman

More than 70 minutes passed from the time the gunman entered the school to when law enforcement officers went into a classroom and killed him, according to a state report released in July. The shooter crashed his truck near the school at 11:28 a.m. and was killed at 12:50 p.m., according to the report.

At 11:33 a.m., a man called 911 and yelled, “He’s inside the school shooting at the kids!” according to the audio released Tuesday.

A teacher hiding in a closet told the dispatcher, “There’s somebody banging at my school,” and said, “I’m so scared."

At 12:03 p.m., a child trapped inside a classroom whispers, “There’s a school ...,” with the rest of the phrase inaudible, followed by “at Robb Elementary.”

The news organizations did not say how they obtained the audio, which includes calls from people in rooms 111 and 112 with the gunman.

The Texas Tribune and ProPublica said that they had 20 emergency calls and dozens of hours of conversations between police and dispatchers and that the audio shows the extent of the miscommunication during the shooting.

In a call at 12:36 p.m., a 10-year-old student who was trapped in room 112 and survived the shooting says in a quiet voice that “there’s a school shooting,” according to the audio. The girl had also called more than 20 minutes before, the news outlets reported.

The dispatcher tells the girl not to disconnect, and she whispers, “Can, can you tell the police to come to my room?” The dispatcher says they are trying to get people to her, according to the audio.

At one point a city police dispatcher reports that the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, was in the room with the shooter when he was not, the news outlets reported.

There also appeared to be confusion about how many people were injured. A Uvalde dispatcher says only a few people had been shot, but a dispatcher heard on radio audio says a child is on the line and “advising he is in the room full of victims, full of victims at this moment,” the outlets reported.

More coverage of the Uvalde school massacre

Arredondo has testified that he thought of the situation as a “barricaded subject,” state legislators said in their report in June. The report called it “a terrible, tragic mistake" and said officers should have treated the situation as an active shooter case.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, the mayor and police chief of Uvalde, and a lawyer who has represented Arredondo did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the report and the audio Tuesday night.

Fallout from the law enforcement response has led to multiple terminations and suspensions. 

Arredondo was fired in August, and the entire school district police force was suspended in October. Last month, the school board approved the terms of district superintendent's retirement, The Texas Tribune reported. The school will be demolished.

Some outraged parents have demanded the head of Texas state police, Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, resign or retire.