Editor’s Note: CNN was informed that the families of those killed and injured at Robb Elementary were offered an opportunity to watch the video privately before this story was published. The footage provided by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin obscures children’s faces and ends before the final confrontation with the gunman.
Dramatic new video of first responders at Robb Elementary School shows a close-up view of the action – and inaction – of the law enforcement response to the unfolding massacre.
Body camera footage reveals officers smashing windows and pulling children out of the school as well as inside a hallway fumbling with keys and failing to pry open a door near to where a gunman had control of two classrooms full of dead, dying and terrified children and teachers.
Unlike the earlier pictures from the school surveillance camera that were released by the Austin American-Statesman this month, the new footage shows close-ups from just outside Classrooms 111 and 112 and reveals conversations between officers and pleas to the shooter.
The video was given first to CNN by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who told us last month how frustrated he was at the investigation into the response to the shooting that killed 19 children aged between 9 and 11 and two teachers.
He said he released the materials despite instructions from the office of District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, who is leading an investigation into the response.
CNN confirmed that the families of the dead and injured were offered opportunities to see the videos. They have been critical of how long it took for the gunman to be stopped – 77 minutes from when officers first entered the school despite training being to confront a shooter to “stop the killing.”
The release of the video to CNN came on the same day as an interim report from a Texas House Committee into the massacre described a “lackadaisical approach” by those sent to help. It outlines failures by multiple law enforcement agencies, and addresses problems with locks, doors and Wi-Fi at the school, and the shooter’s personal and family history.
Frantic rescues and frustrating delays
CNN has watched hours of the body camera footage, including revealing new views from Uvalde Police Sgt. Daniel Coronado, who was one of the first on scene at 11:35 a.m. local time, and UPD Officer Justin Mendoza.
Coronado shouts “Shots fired!” and runs into the school and into a hallway that appears to be full of smoke from gunfire. More shots can be heard, apparently as the officers approached the classrooms and were fired on.
Coronado retreats outside where he calls out “We have him contained,” identifying the shooter as a “male subject with an AR” at 11:39 a.m. He calls for equipment.
At first, there is confusion whether the attacker is in an office or not. At 11:42 a.m. a call goes out that it’s the classroom of Eva Mireles, the wife of Uvalde Police Officer Ruben Ruiz, who called him to say she had been shot.
Coronado tells other arriving responders, “There’s plenty of officers” and directs some to start crowd control with the expectation that worried parents will soon converge on the school.
As officers gather outside one entrance to the school, one is heard telling the others: “Chief is in there, Chief’s in charge right now.”
After some minutes, a message is relayed that children are inside the school and about to be evacuated.
Officers run around to another side of the school building where they call on those inside to open the windows before finding something to break them.
Responders help children to get out, covering jagged glass with a sheet and what appear to be ballistic vests.
“Kids coming out! Kids coming out!” one officer shouts.
“Go, go, go!” another urges the children.
“We need to get these kids out of here. They’re scared, man,” the camera picks up. “We got to get them out of there. I don’t know what the f**k is going to happen after this.”
Once some of the classrooms are cleared, Coronado goes back inside, where Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the school district police chief, tells officers where they could take positions. Coronado defers to Arredondo, asking if there was any way into the classroom and offers to “bust a window.”
At 12:11 p.m., more than 30 minutes into the situation when scores of bullets have been fired, including at first responders who first approached the classrooms, someone calls out to the shooter in English and Spanish to surrender.
“This could still be peaceful,” a man says.
The bodycam from Mendoza at the same time at the end of the hall shows officers learning that BORTAC – a Border Patrol rapid response team – is still 30 minutes away.
At 12:11 p.m. a dispatcher can be heard saying there is a child on the line from “Room 12” talking of a “room full of victims.”
That is relayed to the acting Uvalde PD chief on the scene Lt. Mariano Pargas, who makes no audible comment.
Just outside the hallway, an officer in black uniform says, “If you want to start getting kids out, I can start jumping them,” but it is not clear what he is referring to or what happened next. Mendoza follows acting chief Pargas back in the hallway.
On Sunday, the city of Uvalde announced that Pargas had been placed on administrative leave “to investigate whether Lt. Pargas was responsible for taking command on May 24, what specific actions Lt. Pargas took to establish that command, and whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved and other possible policy violations.”
CNN has reached out to Pargas for comment and has not received an answer yet.
Preparations to tackle the gunman
Canisters of gas and flash-bang grenades arrive on scene but have to be sorted out and there are no gas masks immediately available.
Closer to the classroom, there is no response to the outreach and minutes later Arredondo is seen fumbling with a bunch of keys trying to open a door down the hall. Another officer also tries the keys and an attempt is made to pry open the door too. It stays shut.
At 12:34 p.m., with a man still trying bunches of keys to open a door, officers talk about how they still do not have a “visual” – a way to see into – the classroom.
As someone asks if there is anyone in the room with the gunman, Arredondo and Coronado both confirm they believe there are casualties.
The new video shows the preparation for a breach close up, for minutes and minutes as more and more officers come in and take stock of the situation, standing in the hallways decorated with children’s work and a huge colorful “Congrats” sign for the end of the school year.
At 12:49 p.m. a helicopter is advised to keep watch in case the shooter tries to escape through the ceiling and then the roof.
Coronado’s bodycam captures officers talking about a burning smell but all appears quiet around Arredondo.
The videos do not show the breach of the classroom door, the confrontation with and killing of the gunman, or the horrific scenes inside the classroom.
On Sunday, McLaughlin told families that Pargas has been suspended, CNN learned.
The bodycam footage and other evidence have been in official hands since the massacre May 24, but the release of information has not happened.
After initial praise for law enforcement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others, it soon became clear how long it took for officers to effectively challenge the shooter and get help for victims. Their approach and a changing timeline of what happened has been roundly condemned by experts as well as heartbroken families who called the officers in the hallway “cowards.”
Mayor McLaughlin told CNN on Sunday that he and others had been told by the district attorney’s office “from Day 1” not to release anything, but he considered that as no longer applicable given the leaking of the hallway surveillance in particular.
“I’m tired of the families getting dumped on,” he said.
“The families have suffered more than anybody already with the loss of their children. And they have been slapped in the face at every turn. Enough’s enough,” he continued.
“We’ve asked for transparency. We’ve asked for it from the investigation. I don’t think we’re still getting it, but at least whatever we have, we’re going to release and we’re going to be transparent.”
Busbee, the Uvalde County prosecutor, said in a statement last month that “any release of records to that incident at this time would interfere with said ongoing investigation and would impede a thorough and complete investigation.”