AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, hearings are taking place in both the Texas House and Texas Senate regarding the mass shooting at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents the Uvalde area, was present during the hearing on Tuesday. He joined KVUE live afterward to discuss.
In today's Senate hearing, much, if not all, of the blame for the response to the killer at Robb Elementary School was placed at the feet of school Police Chief Pete Arredondo. The DPS director called it an abject failure. Is that how you see it?
Well, you know, there's been a lot of finger-pointing and certainly a lot of quick rushes to judgment. But at the end of the day, I think that I would go with his first assessment several weeks ago when he said that this was a failure by all law enforcement. What I questioned him directly today, we were able to ascertain some troops hear that the active shooter protocol superseded any notion of incident commander protocol. And therefore, all law enforcement entities that were in that hallway should have made the decision to go in there. We were also able to ascertain that Arredondo really didn't have radio communication. So to the point that I've been saying day after day, how do you become an active shooter incident commander if you don't have the ability to communicate that with anybody? Certainly, I think that Arredondo, his actions were a dereliction of duty by leaving his radio communications outside. But today, we were told that no radio communications work for any law enforcement agency inside that building. That's clearly a glaring, systemic failure that unfortunately led to the further loss of life.
Blame in an instance like this is one thing. Holding someone accountable is another thing. Are there people involved in this response who should face more serious consequences?
Well, listen, I think I'm going to leave that judgment to two other people. Right now, I've got as a legislator, I've got to make sure that this doesn't ever happen again. You had 91 DPS state troopers there that, we just found out about today, 12 in that hallway for bits and moments. Not once did any of those people take any orders from Pete Arredondo or anybody else. It is clear to me that what happened in that hallway was a failure of communication by all law enforcement officers to be able to communicate with each other. I've never met Pete Arredondo, don't care to meet him. He clearly failed, but so did everybody else in that hallway and beyond.
The DPS director did say today that state troopers that were there couldn't legally take over the active scene on that day. Should that law be changed in light of this horrific event?
So I heard that, too. And at the end of the day, I question that legal estimation or that legal assertion by him. At the end of the day, the BORTAC officers went in on their own, as per Col. McGrath's testimony. So the federal government didn't stand down to anybody. They didn't ask questions. They finally got fed up of weighing it. And so, I would question, you know, his assertion or his assessment of things. At the end of the day, what I pinned him down was, it specifically was active-shooter protocols supersede incident commander protocols. And so, all officers in that hallway and beyond failed these children. That's all. Those are harsh words. And it's hard for us to say and it's hard for us to hear, but the systemic failures, the operational failures, the communication failures and the human error here are obvious. But they need to be spread right across the board to everybody that was out there. And that's clear.
Let's talk more about that communication aspect. We know now that things we were told that day were not true. For example, the door of the school was not propped open and it wasn't locked either, but it wasn't propped open. How would you describe the flow of information coming from authorities that are in charge here?
That's been one of the biggest things I have to say. I mean, we're free here to fix things. It's important that we be transparent. This timeline was certainly amended up until yesterday, but this, the brunt of this timeline was had probably within the first 10 days. It could have been very open and honest and forthright with this community. But as of June 2, all of that flow of information stopped. And I think that that led to the people on the ground questioning all law enforcement, including DPS, their sheriffs, their police and their school police. And so when you have a lack of transparency, it tends to lead to a lack of credibility, a lack of trust by your community. And that's what's happened here. I don't blame the people of Uvalde for having those those failures in trust. I don't blame them at all.
Does it rise to the level of a coverup, in your opinion?
My concern initially, I didn't say that initially, I couldn't say that there was a coverup. And here lately I have been very concerned about the constant finger-pointing by entities. We spent $4 billion in one year on this border. He admitted today that those 91 DPS officers that were on the scene, the majority of them were all for Operation Lone Star. Operation Lone Star, just like every other enforcement unit, failed these children on that day. Not sitting here criticizing them just for fun. These are our tax dollars at play. We have to make sure that we're sending law enforcement for special operations, that they're doing joint training with these communities. He admitted today that no joint training had been done with communities along the border. If we're going to spend $4 billion as taxpayers, you're damn right we should ask for accountability. And you're damn right that that law enforcement unit should go into those communities and sit down with their counterparts at every level and train for any eventuality, whether it's an immigration, every eventuality, or a bank robbery or a school shooting like this one. That didn't happen. We didn't get our money's worth. And certainly we lost 19 beautiful babies because of it.
Senator, the families of these students, the teachers, they deserve to know what happened, the truth here. Are they going to get the truth with these committee hearings? What do you hope comes from these hearings?
Well, what I can say is that at least from today's hearing, we have some timeline. I just heard from the mayor of Uvalde that there was more information that was not presented today as his staff watched. And so we need to get down to the bottom of this. We need to figure out what all of the timeline is from all operational units in the area. We need to get the body cam footage. From my perspective, I'm going to continue to fight to get the truth. I'm looking at all options on the table right down here. In the next 24 to 48 hours, you might be hearing what we're going to do going forward.
Is a special session needed?
Absolutely. You know, these committees link to nothing other than recommendations, recommendations that can't be acted upon until next January. We start school in 56 days. Children go back to school in 56 days. We need if we're going to talk about school hardening, we need to go do that right now. We need to come up with the money for it. If we're going to talk about mental health, we need to come up with the money for it. If we're going to talk about common sense gun solutions – which is what I would like to do, raising the age limit, for one, to 21 years old to buy a long gun – that's something that we need to do. And by the way, something that 65% of Republicans agree with me on.
Finally, again, thanks for your time. How are the people in Uvalde today?
You know, it's these folks, those that lost their children, they're just grieving every day. They have nothing to look forward to but a sense of pain as the years go by for the families that have injured children, I've been speaking with them. They're working on getting their kids back on track, both physically and mentally, to incredible challenge, strong folks. And I understand that resiliency. But we've got to do our part to make sure that we're doing what we can at this level to create change, because they are demanding that they deserve that. It's my hope that this governor is listening, and this governor brings us back to have common-sense gun solutions, because that's what those people truly want. They want to create change. They want to know that their child's life wasn't lost in vain. Very strong people to be to want that for sure.
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