Body camera footage released by the city of Uvalde last month shows a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper was on the scene outside Robb Elementary School just 2 minutes and 28 seconds after the gunman entered, a timeline earlier than previously known.
The department had only disclosed, in timelines and testimony, that the first state trooper entered the school hallway at 11:42 a.m., nine minutes after the gunman entered the school. But DPS had not stated when the trooper first arrived at the school itself.
The more specific timeline raises further questions about DPS’s own transparency and role in the botched police response, even as the department leads the investigation into what happened. The body camera video was provided to CNN by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who has expressed his frustration with the department’s investigation and accused DPS of a “cover-up.”
The head of the largest police union in Texas said the new timeline raised serious questions about the department’s trustworthiness.
“I don’t know that we can trust them to do an internal investigation,” Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which represents some law enforcement officers in Uvalde, told CNN on Tuesday. “It would be best if the investigation were headed up by an outside independent source that the public can have total confidence in.
“I would say that DPS was fast to wash its hands, to point fingers and to make sure that the general public, particularly the elected officials, knew that they were spotless, blameless and that this was a local problem,” he added.
The new reporting comes more than two months after an 18-year-old gunman entered the school, opened fire inside two adjoining classrooms and slaughtered 19 children and two teachers. Officers arrived on the scene minutes later, but after taking fire from the gunman, they retreated to a hallway, and the gunman remained inside the classrooms for a total of 77 minutes before a tactical unit forced their way in and killed him, according to a timeline from the public safety department.
The long delay contradicts a widely taught protocol for active shooter situations, which says that law enforcement should stop the gunman as fast as possible. Yet authorities have repeatedly offered conflicting timelines and muddled explanations as to what happened in that period.
In June, DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw called the law enforcement response an “abject failure” in testimony before the Texas Senate. He placed sole blame for the delayed response on the on-scene commander, Uvalde School Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo.
“The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
Arredondo has said he did not consider himself to be in command that day, but body camera videos and other documents undermine that claim and show him giving orders and conveying and receiving information. The school district’s superintendent placed him on administrative leave in late June.
What the body camera video shows
The body camera video shows the hectic scene in the moments after the shooting as law enforcement raced to the school.
The gunman entered the school at 11:33:00 a.m., according to the official Texas DPS timeline. In the body camera video, the Texas state trooper is seen running on the street leading to one of the entrances of the school at 11:35:28.
While the image of the trooper is difficult to make out in the distance, closer images of the trooper can be seen in the minutes that follow as the trooper gets closer to the police officer wearing the body camera. At 11:36:01 the trooper is seen taking cover behind a vehicle and a second later the trooper is seen running toward one of the entrances of the school.
At 11:40:32, the body camera video shows that the state trooper was at the east entrance of the building. Just over a minute later, the trooper is seen on body camera video inside the building at 11:41:44.
The official timeline released by DPS noted that a Texas DPS trooper entered the east hallway at 11:42:24, but did not mention when the trooper first arrived outside the school. In his testimony to the Texas Senate, McCraw also revealed that a trooper was in the hallway at 11:42 but did not mention when the trooper arrived on scene.
According to DPS, McCraw’s testimony only included the troopers who entered the building, with arrival times expected to be included in a detailed final report.
“The timeline from the Director’s testimony was limited to officers entering the West building and that information was based on enhanced interior school surveillance footage and limited body camera coverage,” Texas DPS spokesperson Ericka Miller said in a statement.
Miller added that the investigation is ongoing and investigators are working to synchronize body camera footage with the timeline of events.
Miller also said that state trooper Sgt. Juan Maldonado was among the first officers to arrive on the scene, accompanied by Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Officer Ruben Ruiz. CNN was the first to report that Maldonado was on body camera video at 11:37:51, just 4 minutes and 51 seconds after the shooter entered the school.