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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
What Really Happened in Uvalde. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 07, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's armed. This side of the building. We have (INAUDIBLE). On the building, on the west side of the property.
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BROWN: The special report "WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN UVALDE?" airs right now. Have a good night.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Anderson Cooper.
It's been two and a half months since a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers in Robb Elementary School, and wounded many others. The families of the dead and survivors of the massacre are still waiting for answers about what really happened in Uvalde.
It took DPS, the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for statewide law enforcement, nearly a month after the shootings to finally release a detailed timeline of the attack and the police response. And in mid-July the Texas House Investigative Committee released a preliminary report revealing a number of law enforcement failures.
Police failed to follow universally accepted active shooter protocols. They allowed the gunman to remain in the classroom for more than 70 minutes. There were children still alive inside, one of whom repeatedly called 911 for help. There were wounded teachers fighting for their lives.
Tonight we take a close look at the false and at times misleading information initially provided by Texas law enforcement and public officials to families and reporters about the police response.
Throughout this hour, we are being careful about what body camera and surveillance videos we show you. There will be no images of violence or sounds of gunfire. We want to be respectful of all those grieving in Uvalde. Some of the videos, though, are difficult to watch given what we know was happening elsewhere off screen.
There's still a lot to learn, but it's worth mentioning, had parents and families, reporters and others not demanded answered from law enforcement officials in the hours and the days and months after this massacre, it's likely we wouldn't know nearly as much as we do about what really happened in Uvalde. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of Texas for you now. Police on the scene of a deadly shooting at an elementary school in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The awful images coming in from Robb Elementary School about 80 miles from San Antonio.
COOPER (voice-over): For hours after the shootings in Uvalde, there is chaos around the school and few details released to the public about the police response.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: We have not been given or heard any reporting on any exact timeline.
COOPER (on-camera): Is it clear to you how quickly police were able to get on the scene?
LAVANDERA: It sounds like it was relatively quickly, but obviously not fast enough to prevent what has happened here. I don't want to go beyond that really.
LAVANDERA: Because we haven't really gotten any indication as to exactly how quickly agents were able to respond to that scene.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: There's a lot of facts that we just don't know here.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think right now it's important that we wait until we started getting official comments being made so that we really are basing it on facts.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: The best information that we have at this time understanding very importantly that this is an ongoing investigation and ongoing investigations often reveal new information.
COOPER (voice-over): Some 24 hours after the shooting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz and other state officials and law enforcement personnel hold a press conference.
ABBOTT: As horrible as what happened, it could have been worse. The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives. It is a fact that because of their quick response getting on the scene, being able respond to the gunman and eliminate the gunman, they were able to save lives.
COOPER: The governor's description of the police response turned out to be false. Days later he would say he'd been misled by his briefers.
Here is what we know. At 11:28 a.m. on May 24th, a speeding Ford pickup truck crashes into a ditch outside the grounds of Robb Elementary School. The surveillance camera overlooking the parking lot of the Hill Crest Funeral Home across the street shows two witnesses to the crash approach the pickup. The driver fires at them, and they run. They then call 911. The 18-year-old gunman now out of the truck walks toward the school. A teacher inside calls 911.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). He's shooting. (INAUDIBLE). Here he comes.
The kids are running. Oh, my god. Get in your room! Get in your room! Get in your room! Get in your room!
COOPER: Responding to one of the 911 calls, a school safety officer arrives in his vehicles and drives right past the gunman. Police initially report this officer, quote, "engaged with the gunman."
SGT. ERICK ESTRADA, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: He attempted to enter the school or he was engaged by law enforcement, and unfortunately, he was able to enter the premises. There was several law enforcement that engaged the suspect but he was able to make entry into the school.
COOPER: That never happened. As surveillance images show, the gunman was able to enter the school parking lot, fire his rifle 27 times at the building and then walk inside.
The next day at the governor's press conference Steven McCraw, the director of DPS, portrayed the police response in the best possible light repeating the false story about an officer engaging with the suspect.
COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: There was a brave consolidated independent school district resource officer that approached him, engaged him. And at that time gunfire was not exchanged but the subject was able to make it into the school.
MCCABE: If you came to a scene and you were behind a position of cover and you had your weapon drawn on a subject, and then you were giving that person commands and they were responding to your commands, you could refer to that as engaging the subject, but let's be honest. Its use in this situation was misleading. They didn't do any of those things with the subject.
COOPER: Andrew McCabe is the former deputy director of the FBI.
MCCABE: I will say that as a member of the law enforcement community, it's a very tough position to be in. Law enforcement people understand what it's like to have to respond to crisis events, how confusing it is, how oftentimes the early information that you get from the scene is inaccurate. We get it. These are like the worst and hardest decisions you'll ever have to make as a law enforcement officer, so we are a community that's reluctant to like immediately criticize each other, and I certainly felt that way in Uvalde. Nevertheless, there are all kind of things here that really didn't add up.
COOPER: It would take a full day before another DPS official, South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon corrected the record.
VICTOR ESCALON, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: One more thing I forgot to mention, that I wanted to mention that I want to clear up that came out early on. It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry. Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially. He was not confronted by anybody to clear the record on that.
COOPER: That is even more clear in the surveillance video inside the school. At 11:33 a.m. the gunman opens the unlocked door and walks inside. He heads down a hallway to classrooms 111 and 112 which are adjoined. A child rounds the corner and peers down the hallway. At the sound of gunfire he runs.
Law enforcement officials say at least 100 rounds are fired by the gunman inside classroom within the first four minutes. While the gunman is shooting in the classroom, a security camera shows three Uvalde police officers approach. All three have body armor, two hold rifles, the other a pistol. At 11:36 they rush down the hall towards the classroom.
According to the DPS timeline, the gunman fired driving them away. The Texas House Investigative Committee report says one officer faced gunfire getting grazed by fragments and building material. According to that report the other officer was also struck with building material.
On the other end of the hall a body camera shows Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the highest ranking officer on the scene, also near the classroom with officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Careful, guys. Shots fired.
COOPER: More and more officers arrive but no one makes a move to neutralize the shooter, though clearly some officers know time is of the essence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to get in there. We've got to get in there. He just keeps shooting. We've got to get in there.
COOPER: It's clear police know where the gunman is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys. He's armed. He just went into the building, we have him (INAUDIBLE) contained. He's going to be in the building, on the west side of the property.
COOPER: The day after the shooting at Governor Abbott's press conference this is what DPS director Steven McCraw claimed happened.
MCCRAW: When the shooting began, we had Uvalde police officers arrive on scene along with the Consolidated Independent School District officers immediately breached, because as we know as officers every second of life. Law enforcement were there. They did engage immediately. They did contain him in the classroom. Those officers that arrived who put their lives in danger, they saved other kids. They kept him pinned down and we're very proud of that.
COOPER: As the body and security cameras clearly showed, no one immediately breached the classroom. No one immediately engaged the shooter. No one pinned him down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we know where the guy is?
COOPER: He was free to roam the classroom killing at will. The words DPS director Steven McCraw continually uses are vague and misleading.
MCCRAW: They breached it and engaged the active shooter and continued to keep them pinned down in that location, you know, afterwards until a tactical team could be put together. They breached the classroom door. They went in, engaged, killed him at the scene.
COOPER: What we didn't know when McCraw was saying that was that the shooter was in the school for 77 minutes before the classroom was finally breached and he was killed.
During that time, there were dozens of police coming and going, hundreds outside the school and not one of them did what officers around the country are now routinely trained to do in these situations.
MCCABE: The delayed and extended time that the responding officers really wasted in Uvalde is the exact opposite of how law enforcement is supposed to respond to an active shooter. We've learned that most fatalities take place in about the first two minutes an active shooter is on the scene. Your number one goal is to get in there and stop that shooter. You have to kill that person before they are able to kill other innocent victims, and that did not happen in Uvalde.
And as we now know from the committee's report, there was one effort initially to get into the classroom. They were pushed back by some return fire from the subject.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know that there are kids, right?
COOPER: So many parents still are waiting for answers, heartbroken over the unimaginable loss of their children. I met Angel Garza the day after the shootings. His stepdaughter Amerie Jo was only 10 years old.
ANGEL GARZA, STEPDAUGHTER KILLED IN UVALDE ELEMENTARY SHOOTING: I'm a med aid so when I arrived on the scene, they still had kids inside. They started bringing the kids out, and I was aiding assistance. One little girl was just covered in blood head to toe, like I thought she was injured. I asked her what was wrong, and she says she's OK. She was hysterical saying that they shot her best friend, that they killed her best friend and she's not breathing and that she was trying to call the cops. And I asked the little girl the name and she told meal -- she said Amerie.
COOPER (on-camera): That's how you learned.
GARZA: She was so sweet. She was the sweetest little girl who did nothing wrong. She listened to her mom and dad. She always brushed her teeth. She was creative. She made things for us. She never got in trouble in school. I just want to know what she did to be a victim.
COOPER: Angel told me Amerie Jo had just been given her first phone and was trying to call the police for help when she was murdered.
Coming up, more of what authorities reveal and what they get wrong.
ABBOTT: Law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save livings.
COOPER: Two days after Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other state officials presented false or misleading information about the attack he was asked about his comments by a reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know these facts at the time or were you trying to create a favorable narrative?
ABBOTT: I was misled. I am livid about what happened. I was on this very stage two days ago, and I was telling the public information that had been told to me in a room just a few yards behind where we're looking at right now. I wrote down hand notes in detail about what everybody in that room told me in sequential order about what happened, and when I came out here on this stage and told the public what happened, it was a recitation of what people in that room told me.
COOPER: Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has led multiple law enforcement responses in crises.
MCCABE: It's not uncommon to be briefed on inaccurate information, especially early on or while the crisis is ongoing, and so I have a certain amount of, you know, consideration for what happened there. However, we also know that there was video surveillance inside the school that would have shown anybody who cared to look at it the exact amount of time that law enforcement spent basically standing in those hallways doing nothing while people were being killed in those two classrooms, so it is almost impossible to me to believe that the governor and his staffers, and the folks that we saw in that press conference on the day of or the day after the shooting didn't have better information, didn't understand the true depth and the significance of that delayed response.
And if they didn't know, then shame on them, because the information was right there. They should have known. Somebody should have looked at that video and given the governor a pretty robust picture of how bad things actually were, so, yes, it's almost impossible for me to imagine that they truly thought the world was as they portrayed it in that press conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get in the room! [20:20:00]
COOPER: Another misleading statement repeatedly made by Texas officials was that the shooter was somehow barricaded inside the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe he's barricaded.
LT. CHRIS OLIVAREZ, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: They were at a disadvantage because the gunman was able to make entry into a classroom, barricade himself inside that classroom and that's when just -- he just started shooting children and the teachers.
COOPER: But he wasn't barricaded. In fact, the door to the classroom may not even have been locked. That's because according to a report from the Texas Statehouse Investigative Committee no one tried opening the door.
ESCALON: This press conference is to give you a snapshot of where we're at today.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You guys have said that he was barricaded. Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys could not breach that door?
ESCALON: So I have taken all your questions into consideration. We will be doing updates. We will be doing --
PROKUPECZ: I know, but you are here now and you should be able to answer that question now, sir.
ESCALON: What is your name?
PROKUPECZ: Shimon Prokupecz.
ESCALON: Shimon, I hear you.
PROKUPECZ: Because we've been given a lot of bad information. So why don't you clear all of this up now and explain to us how it is that your officers were in there for an hour, yes, rescuing people but yet no one was able to get inside that room.
ESCALON: Shimon, we will circle back with you. We want to answer all your questions.
PROKUPECZ: I really got the sense that they were hiding something. He tells us in that press conference, yes, you know, the officers were there and then an hour later the Border Patrol goes in and kills the gunman. But he doesn't tell us what was going on in that hour. Why? And that really started to get me very angry and upset.
ESCALON: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Well, Victor Escalon, the South Texas Regional director of DPS, isn't answering CNN's Shimon Prokupecz's questions. He does offer up another explanation for why no one attempted to breach the classroom and kill the gunman.
ESCALON: We have officers calling for additional resources. Everybody that's in the area, tactical teams, we need equipment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got one more shield. I don't think it's ballistic though.
ESCALON: We needed specialty equipment. We need body armor. We need precision riflemen, negotiators, so during this time that they are making those calls to bring in help to solve this problem and stop it immediately they are also evacuating personnel, I wouldn't say personnel, students, teachers. There's a lot going on. A lot of conflict situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're waiting, we going a negotiator and we're waiting for more shields.
COOPER: But according to Andrew McCabe they shouldn't have been waiting on any of that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful.
MCCABE: The Texas state training on active shooter events for school- based law enforcement officers says very clearly that when you arrive at such a scene and such a crisis, your job is to go in quickly with whatever equipment and personnel you have in that moment. It is admittedly an incredibly risky, dangerous position for law enforcement to be in, but that is part of the job. You are expected to put yourself into that risk, into that danger to take a chance at saving the lives of others.
And that didn't happen here. You know, it's always great to wait, you know, to have more equipment and bigger guns and more people but, you know, you lose time waiting for those resources, precious time in which your innocent victims may be losing their lives, and that is exactly what happened here.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety --
COOPER: Hours after Victor Escalon's news conference another DPS official, Chris Olivarez, seems to give yet another explanation as to why police did not follow active shooter protocols.
BLITZER: Don't current and best practices, Lieutenant, call for officers to disable a shooter as quickly as possible regardless of how many officers are actually on site?
LT. CHRIS OLIVAREZ, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Correct. The active shooter situation. You want to stop the killing. You want to preserve life but also one thing that, of course, the American people need to understand is that officers are making entry into this building. They do not know where the gunman is. They are hearing gunshots. They are receiving gunshots. At that point if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could have been shot, they could have been killed. And at that point that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.
PROKUPECZ: And I thought that was the most ridiculous statement, and again, making excuses if as he claims or as he claimed that the gunman was in this classroom, what do you mean you don't know where the gunshots were coming from? Of course officers knew where the gunshots were coming from. There was a lot of confusion over whether this was a classroom or whether this was an office. Yes, that is very apparent now. But they knew what area of the building the gunshots were coming from.
And that lieutenant was also trying to argue that these officers were, you know, taking gunfire and they had to protect themselves, and so they didn't exactly know what they were dealing with and so they needed more firepower and they needed more help, and so that's why it took so long. But, again, trying to give us this kind of glowing picture of the initial response that police did everything right here, that they were the heroes.
COOPER: Many parents who stood outside Robb Elementary urging law enforcement to do more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they have got a shot, shoot them or something.
COOPER: Don't see the police waiting in the hallway for more than 70 minutes as heroes.
JAVIER CASAREZ, DAUGHTER JACKLYN WAS KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: They're all in there. The cops ain't doing (EXPLETIVE DELETED). But standing outside.
COOPER: Javier Casarez was outside the school desperately worried about his 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn.
(On-camera): You argued with authorities outside saying they should go on. You said that law enforcement didn't do their jobs, they should have gone in faster. Do you still believe that?
CASAREZ: One hundred percent. Yes. They should have gone in as soon as they heard gunshots, you know. The point where I was at, you know, I was a good 45 yards away, and I heard like three or four gunshots at that time, and all they did was move back, move back. And like, do your job, go in. What are you fighting us for? Like go do your job, and the other thing, it's sad to say, you know, they didn't go in the way they said they did. And they paint a pretty picture at the press conference with Governor Abbott.
You know, they said they went in swift and took this gunman out, and that was totally false, and being there I saw it all, not just me, you know. A lot of parents that were there, you know, saw it firsthand. So, no, they didn't do what they said they did.
COOPER (voice-over): When police finally killed the shooter they found Jacklyn badly wounded but she still had a pulse. She later died from her wounds. When we come back, the final press conference from Texas law
enforcement and how their story changes once again.
PROKUPECZ: Thank you for doing this, and I do hope you stay here and take as many questions as possible.
COOPER: On Friday, May 27th, three days after the shootings, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other officials hold another press conference. This is DPS director Colonel Steven McCraw.
MCCRAW: 11:27 we know from video evidence, 11:27, the exterior door suspected what we knew the shooter entered was propped open by a teacher. The bottom line is we reported what happened is that backdoor was propped open, it wasn't supposed to be propped open. It was supposed to be locked and certainly the teacher that went back for her cell phone it propped it open again.
COOPER: But it turns out that information is also incorrect.
PROKUPECZ: So the teacher leaving the door open, we only learned of the fact that that did not happen, that the door just didn't lock, that she did try to close the door but it didn't lock, but we only learned of that because of her lawyer. Her lawyer came forward and gave that information to one of the local papers and then within a day or so the Department of Public Safety, which has been running this entire investigation, which was the initial law enforcement agency that did all the press conferences, it was all of their spokespeople who spoke about what happened here admitted that yes, the fact is that this teacher actually did close the door and then for some reason it didn't close. It didn't lock.
Again, this took days to find out. This wasn't something that the police came forward and admitted immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to get in there.
COOPER: And perhaps most significantly in this last briefing Colonel McCraw offers a new explanation as to why no one stormed into the classroom to stop the gunman for 77 minutes.
PROKUPECZ: What efforts were made to try and break through that door you say was locked? What efforts were the officers making to try and break through either that door or another door, to get inside that classroom?
MCCRAW: None at that time.
MCCRAW: The on-scene commander at the time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject.
COOPER: McCraw says the on-scene commander was Uvalde's school district police chief Pete Arredondo.
MCCRAW: The chief of police, the Consolidated Independent School District is the incident commander. It's his school. He's the chief of police, OK.
PROKUPECZ: Where is the police chief, and why isn't he here to take our questions?
MCCRAW: Well, because I'm here to address the latest timeline and facts that we know. You're certainly welcome to reach out to him. The decision was made on the scene, I wasn't there, but at the same point in time, you know, a decision was made that this was a barricaded subject situation. There was time to retrieve the keys and wait for a tactical team with the equipment to go ahead and breach the door and take on the subject at that point. That was the decision, that was the thought process at that particular point in time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What can you tell the parents here waiting and were asking for police to go in?
MCCRAW: There was 19. Like I said, there were 19 officers in there. In fact there was plenty of officers to do whatever needed to be done with one exception, is that the incident commander inside believed they needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that point.
The chief of police of Consolidated Independent School District, he was convinced and, again, I want to go back and say, you know, he was convinced at the time that there's no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize with the proper equipment to go in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, can you go get a breaching tool?
MCCABE: It's very unusual to see agencies pointing the finger at each other in the aftermath of an event like this. Right away, in the day or two after the attack, you heard participating agencies calling into question the decisions of other participating agencies. I'm thinking specifically about the comments of Colonel Steve McCraw and I think of the second or third day after the event, he came right out and called out the decisions made by the first responders as having been wrong.
MCCRAW: It was the wrong decision, period.
MCCABE: That's just remarkable to hear. I think he had to do that because he's correcting so much false information that had been out before his comments, but that seems to have let loose a really unseemly round of finger-pointing, agency at other agencies, and all that has a terribly corrosive effect on the community and their ability to trust the authorities who they are looking to tell them what happened.
PROKUPECZ: Sadly I've covered so many of these shootings now, and for years now, you know. I've never seen anything like this before. This is one of the worst responses by a law enforcement agency in a very, very long time and perhaps one of the worst, and has really hurt law enforcement and has hurt police departments all across the country. And the blame game and the finger-pointing doesn't help because these agencies should be working together, should be discussing together what went wrong and working together to take responsibility for what happened.
And we didn't see that here. Almost immediately when they finally started admitting that mistakes were made by law enforcement, the blame game goes right to the smallest police department with probably the least experienced officers who don't really have real-life situation experiences.
ARNULFO REYES, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: They take that oath to protect.
COOPER: Arnie Reyes is a teacher at Robb Elementary and was shot twice inside the classroom by the gunman. He was one of the 17 people who were injured but survived that day. He told Shimon Prokupecz while Chief Arredondo and the 376 other law enforcement personnel waited, he was waiting to be saved in a classroom full of dead children for more than an hour.
REYES; I'm just thinking and waiting for somebody to come in and save us. You always think, you know, something bad is happening, that the cops get there so fast, that they'd rush in and they help you, you know. And I was just waiting for that. I was waiting for anybody, anybody to come save us.
PROKUPECZ: You're lying there for over an hour, right? And no one is coming to help. What do you think of that?
REYES: They forgot us. I mean, they probably thought that we were all dead or something, but if they would have got in before, some of them probably would have made it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where, where, where?
COOPER: Coming up, the police stop talking and families and reporters' questions are left unanswered, especially from the man who was supposed to be in charge of the response.
PROKUPECZ: Chief, how are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PETE ARREDONDO, UVALDE SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE CHIEF: Thank you. Good evening. Again, briefly as of now we're still working on this active investigation. Once we're able to provide information to the families, we will do so.
COOPER: This is Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo hours after the shooting promising to share information, but he never does. This is the last time he voluntarily speaks publicly, and three days after the shooting all other law enforcement agencies involved also stop talking publicly.
PROKUPECZ: They basically come and they say, well, we're not talking anymore, and now this has turned into a different kind of investigation. Everything has to come from the district attorney, and so as a result we've been ordered not to give out any more information. And that was just incredible because they spent days making themselves available to us when it was convenient for them, when the story was going the way they wanted it to go, but once we started asking hard questions and once we really started going after them, ultimately forcing them to admit that mistakes were made here, they shut down.
COOPER: Than hasn't stopped Shimon Prokupecz from trying to get answers.
PROKUPECZ: Chief, how are you?
ARREDONDO: Well, (INAUDIBLE).
PROKUPECZ: We want to talk to you about your position with the DPS --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's it going?
ARREDONDO: Good. I'm Pete. Nice to meet you.
PROKUPECZ: Want to talk to you about your decision and what --
ARREDONDO: Probably a little bit -- just so to let you all know and I just spoke with --
PROKUPECZ: I know you did.
ARREDONDO: You're not blocking me, are you?
PROKUPECZ: No, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.
ARREDONDO: Just so you all know, just so you all know, obviously we're not going to release anything. We have people in our community being buried. So we're going to be respectful.
PROKUPECZ: I just want your reaction --
ARREDONDO: We're going to be --
PROKUPECZ: -- the Director McCraw saying that you were responsible for the decision to not go into that room.
ARREDONDO: Right. We're going to be --
PROKUPECZ: How do you explain yourself to parents?
ARREDONDO: We're going to be respectful to the family.
PROKUPECZ: I understand that. ARREDONDO: And we're going to --
PROKUPECZ: But you have an opportunity to explain yourself to the parents.
ARREDONDO: And just so you know we're going to do that eventually obviously.
ARREDONDO: And whenever this is done, and the families quit grieving then we'll do that obviously. And just so everybody --
PROKUPECZ: Did you ever said how the families --
ARREDONDO: Just so everybody -- and just so everybody, just so everybody know, we've been in contact with DPS every day. Just so you all know.
PROKUPECZ: They said you're not --
ARREDONDO: Every day.
PROKUPECZ: They said that you're not cooperating.
ARREDONDO: I've been on the phone with them every day.
PROKUPECZ: But they said you're not cooperating, sir. Just two seconds.
ARREDONDO: Just so you know we've been talking to them every day. I appreciate you.
PROKUPECZ: What is your reaction --
ARREDONDO: Y'all have a good day.
PROKUPECZ: What is your reaction, sir?
COOPER: By this point Chief Arredondo had already been singled out by DPS officials and was shouldering much of the blame for the inept response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chief is in there. The chief is in charge right now. Hold on.
COOPER: He told "The Texas Tribune" in a story published on June 9th he never considered himself to be in charge on the day of the shootings and never instructed anyone not to try to breach the building. On June 21st DPS releases a comprehensive timeline of events and Director Steven McCraw testifies before the Texas State Senate. He continues pointing to Chief Arredondo as the one in charge that day.
MCCRAW: I don't think the chief in any way is a bad person at all. I just think he made some bad decisions. The problem is that he may not want to be the incident commander, but if you issue commands and you're the ranking official, you end up being the incident commander.
Let's say the DPS captain shows up into a situation and decides well, he's going to exercise control, well, you know, first of all, he doesn't have the information, and you know what, he may not be as sharp as the on-scene commander that's there in addition to not having the information. So I'm reluctant to encourage or even think of any situation where you would want some level hierarchy where a larger police department gets to come in and take over.
COOPER: Under further questioning, McCraw later explains confronting an active shooter should take precedence over the chain of command.
MCCRAW: Bottom line is there's always someone that takes the lead. It may not have to be the chief and frankly I mentioned it before. You can delegate to another agency but you can delegate is down to even a sergeant or just the lead officer or someone who's got tactical expertise so there's always someone that says let's go, line up, stack up and someone is at the front door.
COOPER: A Texas House committee investigating the response to the shooting agrees with his last statement. In their report they say any of the state or federal law enforcement personnel on site that day could have taken charge, writing, quote, "These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy. Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies, many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police, quickly arrived on the scene."
So why did officials from DPS which is responsible for statewide law enforcement keep singling out Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo?
MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN (R), UVALDE, TEXAS: You know, at this point I don't know what to believe or what not to believe.
COOPER: Don McLaughlin is mayor of Uvalde. He thinks the blame for the police response belongs to all the agencies who were there, not just the Uvalde School District Police.
PROKUPECZ: You're hearing all kinds of stories now coming from one place, DPS.
PROKUPECZ: Kind of controlling the narrative right now. How troubled are you by that?
MCLAUGHLIN: I'm real troubled. By the DPS. I'm not confident in 100 percent of DPS because I think it's a cover-up on --
PROKUPECZ: They're covering up.
MCLAUGHLIN: McCraw is covering up for --
PROKUPECZ: For who?
MCLAUGHLIN: For maybe his agencies or, you know, maybe he told the story he told that, you know, it's hard, you know, what do they say, it's always hard when you tell a lie, you have to keep telling a lie. I'm not saying he's lying. Maybe he was misled.
COOPER: CNN reached out to DPS for comment after this interview. They referred us to the district attorney who ordered an investigation by the Texas Rangers which is a division of DPS. The DPS spokeswoman did tell us the Texas Department of Public Safety is committed to working with multiple law enforcement agencies to get the answers we all see.
Coming up, what the most comprehensive report thus far on the shootings says about the misleading information given out by authorities. And we remember the 21 children and adults killed inside Robb Elementary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're all liars anyway. And you're cowards. He's right. You guys are cowards. All of you. It is a cover-up, and I think we're all sick of that. Uvalde is a very strong city and we're going to be up your asses until we get answers. Thank you very much.
COOPER: More than two months after the shooting and the community in Uvalde is still wanting answers. Still angry about the police response and what's happened since.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, I don't know. I don't know. They said he went in the building. I'm not sure. I'm not sure.
COOPER: The Texas House Investigative Committee's report released July 17th reveals that Victor Escalon, the DPS South Texas regional director --
ESCALON: I was able to make it here during the event on May 24th.
COOPER: -- was the person who briefed Governor Greg Abbott before his press conference the day after the shooting. Escalon only arrived on scene at Robb Elementary shortly before the attacker was killed. According to the committee report he relied on false secondhand information when briefing the governor.
ABBOTT: And now the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
COOPER: The committee also concludes that statements made at Governor Abbott's press conference by among others DPS director McCraw, quote, "repeated a false narrative that the entire incident lasted as little as 40 minutes thanks to officers who rapidly devised a plan, stacked up and neutralized the attacker. The general sentiment shared that day were that law enforcement responders were courageous in keeping the attacker pinned down while children were evacuated."
The report goes on to point out the dangers in misleading information when given out by officials. Quote, "An uncertain narrative also opens the door much wider for conspiracy theories, many of which have been harmful. The fear of a cover-up is palpable here, and while most see it as simply part of an intergovernmental blame game, others have made wild accusations that authorities are sweeping some major scandal under the rug. It does become harder to proclaim the truth when it is so opaque."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Male subject with an AR.
COOPER: CNN and other news organizations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shooter inside the building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go.
COOPER: -- are now suing DPS for failing to respond to our request for public records on the shootings.
MCCABE: Everyone involved knows that this was a massive disaster, so I think what you're seeing are institutions and individuals who are suddenly trying to distance themselves in one way or another from the many mistakes that were made in Uvalde.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cover.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch that door.
MCCABE: And it is just making this tragedy, this colossal failure even worse.
PROKUPECZ: The people who are speaking in the beginning of all of this were state officials run by the governor. Remember, the governor came out and he said police here were heroes and that narrative obviously didn't work out and the governor was embarrassed, but that narrative went on for days. Why that went on for days, why that wasn't stopped sooner, why didn't someone come in and say wait a second, this video paints a completely different picture than what we're saying, I don't know if we're ever going to get to the truth about that.
COOPER: The truth is what so many families in Uvalde are waiting on.
Tonight we remember Navea Bravo, 10 years old. 9-year-old Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares. 10-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod. 10-year-old Jose Flores Jr. 9-year-old Eliahna Garcia known as Ellie. 48-year-old Irma Garcia. 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia. 10-year-old Amerie Joe Garza. 10-year-old Jayce Luevanos. 10-year-old Xavier Javier Lopez. Tess Marie Mata, also 10 years old. 11-year-old Maranda Mathis. 44-year-old Eva Mireles. 10- year-old Alithia Ramirez. 10-year-old Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez. 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez. 10-year-old Lexi Rubio. 10-year-old Layla Salazar. 10-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero. 10-year-old Eliahna Cr
The truth is what they, their families, and all those in Uvalde whose lives were forever changed that day deserve. It is the least of what they deserve. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)