The Uvalde schools police chief said he left his radios behind during last month’s mass shooting.
He said he believed that the radios would have slowed him down, and impaired his shooting accuracy.
But he also admitted he was unaware students were calling 911 because he didn’t have a radio on him.
Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo, one of the first responders to last month’s elementary school massacre, said he intentionally left his two radios behind when he ran into the building to try and stop the gunman, making it difficult for him to be in contact with most of the other officers on the scene throughout the entire situation.
In a phone interview with the Texas Tribune, Arredondo said he left two radios outside the school because he believed they would have slowed him down and that every second mattered.
One radio had a clip that may have fallen off his tactical belt, while another had an antenna that would have hit him as he ran, he told the Tribune.
However, the radios would have connected him to the campus and police networks, according to the outlet.
Arredondo said he also wanted both hands free to hold his gun so he could fire it more accurately.
Arredondo added that based on his prior experience, the radios didn’t work well in some of the school buildings anyway, and that he would have turned them off in the hallways to avoid being detected by the gunman.
Still, Arredondo’s admission raises questions as to how the hour-long ordeal might have been different if he’d been able to receive real-time information via radio.
In a media conference after the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw identified Arredondo as the incident commander and said the police chief had made the “wrong decision” to treat the gunman as a barricaded suspect instead of an active shooter.
But Arredondo told the Tribune that he had no idea at the time that he was the incident commander, although the outlet notes that per the National Incident Management System, which “guides all levels of government,” he would have been the commander by definition as the first person on the scene.
He said he didn’t give any orders, but used his phone to call for backup and an extraction tool for the locked door separating officers from the shooter and victims. Arredondo said he assumed that another officer or official had taken over as the coordinator for the situation’s larger response.
Additionally, the police chief said he wasn’t aware that children and teachers in the classroom were desperately calling 911 for help because he didn’t have his radio with him.
Arredondo has received the bulk of national criticism for how long it took officers to deal with the gunman, and has recently avoided the public eye. He’s been accused of wasting time, failing to coordinate the responses of the dozens of on-scene officers from at least five agencies, and deciding to wait out a situation with an active shooter.
But he defended the police response as he spoke to the Tribune, saying that “not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,”
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