The Texas police chief blamed for the disastrous response to the Uvalde school shooting admitted making the “horrible” call not to rescue kids trapped with the gunman — even after hearing “a lot” of shots and the killer reloading.
Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was later fired as Uvalde schools’ top cop, made the astonishing admission in his only briefing with investigators — a day after 19 kids and two teachers were slaughtered at Robb Elementary.
He smiled and made jokes during the nearly one-hour interview obtained by CNN, defending his decision to evacuate the rest of the school rather than those trapped with 18-year-old mass shooter Salvador Ramos.
He detailed being one of the first to arrive at the school, hearing too many gunshots to count.
“When I opened the [school] door I saw the smoke,” he recalled, saying “shots started firing” again as he and a colleague started nearing the classroom where Ramos was holed up with kids and teachers.
“Obviously, I backed off and started taking cover,” the lead officer said, which CNN noted was in clear defiance of training that insists officers risk their own lives to “neutralize” active shooters.
“I know there’s probably victims in there and with the shots I heard, I know there’s probably somebody who’s going to be deceased,” he acknowledged of the room he backed away from.
But he felt the “priority” was the “preservation of life” of those not under the “immediate threat.”
“Once I realized that was going on, my first thought is that we need to vacate” the rest of the school, he said, telling arriving officers that “we’re taking [other] kids out first.”
“I know this is horrible,” he said — claiming it was what “our training tells us to do,” seemingly contradicting the actual guidance.
“We have him contained, there’s probably going to be some deceased in there — but we don’t need any more from out here,” Arredondo said of his priority to clear the rest of the building.
CNN noted that the school cop had received active-shooter training at least three times, including just months before the slaughter.
That course instructs officers: “First responders to the active shooter scene will usually be required to place themselves in harm’s way and display uncommon acts of courage to save the innocent.”
“We’re going to get scrutinized, I’m expecting that. We’re getting scrutinized for why we didn’t go in there,” the top cop said, long before the true horrors of the delay emerged.
During the wait, Arredondo said he was unable to communicate with dispatch because he did not have a radio — and put his phone on vibrate because it “was ringing off the wall from everybody in the world.”
Arredondo said he made “constant communication” and “numerous phone calls” with Ramos, who “never responded.”
“I’m certain I heard him reload … I know he did something” with the clip, he said, making clear he knew the shooter was alive.
During the agonizing delay, some of the kids trapped inside the room made harrowing 911 calls begging for help — while one of the teachers told her school cop husband that she was among those shot and dying.
But still, Arredondo focused on clearing the rest of the school and getting more cover, with hundreds of officers arriving before they stormed the room, including snipers to cover the roof.
“I didn’t want this dude to come out,” he said with a chuckle of one of the worst school shooters in history. “I didn’t want him to pop up somewhere and run off.”
Among early arrivals to help was an officer who was “probably one of the best shots around here — so I was happy he was there,” Arredondo recalled with a slight smile.
He joked that he knew who the Border Patrol officers were because “most of them are Anglo — they stand out to us.”
He largely blamed the agonizing delay on trying to find a key to unlock the door — even though a Texas Senate hearing was later told nobody actually tried to open the door, which was likely never actually locked.
Once a heavily armed tactical team finally entered, “there was no gunfire at that time, which surprised the hell out of me,” the then-top cop said.
“But seconds later, there was a gunfire exchange. Then everybody rushed,” he said.
“We started to carry out the ones that were still alive,” Arredondo said — including some who would later die, with loved ones blaming the delay.
“One particular one was Eva Ruiz,” he said of the 44-year-old teacher also known as Eva Mireles, whose cop husband, Ruben Ruiz, Arredondo described as his “right-hand guy.”
“She was still alive … I gave her some words of encouragement to fight,” he said, saying he “could not understand” her mumbled reply before she later died.
“And I know there was another child that was carried out” alive who later died, he said, seemingly referring to either Jacklyn “Jackie” Cazares, 9, or Xavier Lopez, 10, both of whom later succumbed to their injuries.
The disgraced cop called it “bothersome” that the deranged mass shooter was able to easily stroll into one of his district’s schools.
Ramos “seemed to have gotten in pretty quick — it’s bothersome to see that. It’s sad,” he said.
The newly revealed interview with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and FBI was the only one Arredondo gave. He soon stopped cooperating after he was accused of leading the disastrous response.
DPS director Col. Steven McCraw slammed the response as an “abject failure.”
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw told the state senate.
Arredondo was fired in August. His attorney George Hyde told CNN he was not authorized to respond to media requests. “I have informed him of your request and it will be up to him from there,” Hyde told the network.
Arredondo did not respond to the requests, CNN said.
During his interview, the then-police chief insisted he was “comfortable” with the training his department had been getting.
“We don’t prepare that [a school shooting] might happen — we prepare that it’s gonna happen,” he said, seemingly initially pleased with the response.
“If something major like this happens, we’re not gonna mess this up,” he said at the time. “We better deliver.”