Uvalde shooting: Robb Elementary School to be demolished, says mayor

City mayor says 'you can never ask a child or teacher to go back in that school'

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Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas — where a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers — will be demolished, the city's mayor said on Tuesday.

The announcement came a few hours after a senior Texas official called the police response to the shooting “an abject failure” and accused a commander of putting the lives of officers over those of the children.

“You can never ask a child to go back or teacher to go back in that school ever,” said Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin.

He did not say when the school would be demolished.

In a separate Texas state Senate hearing into the May 24 shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) director Steven McCraw said the on-site commander made “terrible decisions” and officers at the scene lacked sufficient training, costing valuable time during which lives may have been saved.

“There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learnt,” Mr McCraw said.

Many parents and relatives of the children and staff have expressed deep anger over police action after the gunman entered the school and began shooting.

One delay Mr McCraw discussed was the search for a key to the classroom where the shooting occurred. He said the door was not locked and there was no evidence officers tried to open it while others searched for a key.

“There is no way … for the subject to lock the door from the inside,” Mr McCraw said.

Days after the shooting, the Texas DPS said as many as 19 officers waited for more than an hour in a hallway outside classrooms 111 and 112 before a US Border Patrol-led tactical team made entry. Mr McCraw repeated that in the hearing on Tuesday.

“The officers had weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armour, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none," he said.

"One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds — that is how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued.

“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour to isolate, distract and neutralise the subject.

“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."

Mr McCraw said the scene commander, Uvalde schools police chief Pete Arredondo, “waited for radio and rifles, and he waited for shields and he waited for Swat. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed”.

Mr Arredondo did not address either of the two hearings on Tuesday.

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Protesters chant and wave signs as they march during a gun control rally in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 11, 2022.  (Keith Birmingham / The Orange County Register via AP)

Earlier this month, Mr Arredondo said he never considered himself incident commander at the scene of the shooting. He said he did not order police to hold back from breaching the building.

At the city council meeting on Tuesday night, Mr McLaughlin accused Mr McCraw of deflecting blame from state police.

“Every briefing he leaves out the number of his own officers and rangers that were on scene that day,” the mayor said.

“Col McCraw has an agenda and it is not to present a full report on what happened and to give factual answers to the families of this community.”

Mr McLaughlin said state officials were leaving the city and its residents in the dark. “The gloves are off,” he said.

Greg Abbott, Texas's Republican Governor, said he wanted all facts regarding the shooting released to the victims' families and the public as quickly as possible.

The Uvalde City Council voted unanimously late on Tuesday to deny a leave of absence for Mr Arredondo as a council member.

Mr Arredondo won election to the council shortly before the shooting but has not appeared at the two meetings since then. Denying him a leave of absence sets up his potential departure as a council member if he misses a third consecutive meeting.

Mr Arredondo told the Texas Tribune he left his two radios outside the school because he wanted his hands free to hold his gun.

He had said he called for tactical gear, a sniper and keys to get inside, holding back from the doors for 40 minutes to avoid provoking sprays of gunfire.

Community members, along with parents of the victims, urged Mr Arredondo to resign during an impassioned school board meeting on Monday, ABC News reported.

Updated: June 22, 2022, 6:32 AM