Teacher wounded in Uvalde shooting says he will never forgive police

REUTERS/Marco Bello
Law enforcement officers guard the scene of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022.

A teacher wounded in last month’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school said he will never forgive law enforcement for waiting more than an hour to stop the gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers.

Arnulfo Reyes, hospitalized after being shot twice during the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School, spoke of his anger toward police during an emotional interview that aired Tuesday. He described feeling abandoned by officers who stood in a hallway even as students begged for help in repeated calls to 911.

“After everything, I get more angry, because you have a bulletproof vest. I had nothing! I had nothing,” a crying Reyes said in a segment broadcast on “Good Morning America.” “You’re supposed to protect and serve. There is no excuse for their actions.”

The police response to the Uvalde, Texas, shooting has faced mounting scrutiny and criticism amid revelations about the officers’ delay and other missteps. A timeline laid out by state officials revealed that officers retreated when the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, shot at them. A phalanx of police waited more than an hour for backup, before a group led by federal Border Patrol agents breached the classroom where Ramos was holed up with students he had shot.

School police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was acting as incident commander, made the call that the officers on scene should wait. His order ran against protocols developed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting, which call for police to confront shooters as soon as possible, and was described by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw as “the wrong decision. Period.”

State and federal officials are investigating the police response.

In his interview with ABC, Reyes detailed the horror that unfolded in his classroom as he and his students hid under tables waiting for help. The fourth-grade English and language arts teacher said May 24 was “going to be a good day,” with students receiving awards during a ceremony at the school.

Some of the kids went home after the ceremony. But 11 stayed at school, and Reyes put on a movie for them in Room 111. Suddenly, shots rang out.

“The kids started asking out loud, ‘Mr. Reyes, what is going on?’ ” he recalled. “And I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but let’s go ahead and get under the table. Get under the table and act like you’re asleep.’ “

He was gathering them under the table when he turned and saw the gunman.

According to a timeline provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Ramos entered the school through an exterior door at 11:33 a.m. and immediately began shooting into Room 111 or Room 112 – two classrooms connected by a Jack-and-Jill style bathroom. Reyes was shot twice, with one bullet hitting his arm and lung and a second one striking his back.

He fell to the floor and decided, “I’m going to act like I’m asleep also.” He said the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary and “prayed and prayed that I would not hear none of my students talk.”

In Room 112, Reyes said, a student said, “Officer, officer, we’re in here, we’re in here.” Reyes said the shooter stood up from behind his desk, “and he walked over there, and he shot over there again.”

Children in both of the adjoined rooms called 911, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. One student in Room 111 called at 12:19 p.m., and two minutes into the call, three gunshots were audible. The caller hung up at the urging of another student.

At 12:50 p.m., officers used a janitor’s keys to unlock the classroom doors. They shot Ramos in Room 111.

“After that, it was just bullets everywhere,” Reyes said in the interview. “And then I just remember Border Patrol saying, ‘Get up, get up.’ And I couldn’t get up.”

He cried remembering his students who were killed. Shaking his head, he said: “I’m sorry. I tried my best with what I was told to do. Please don’t be angry with me.”

No training could have prepared teachers for what happened in the classroom that day, Reyes said. He called instead for changes to the law.

“Nothing gets you ready for this,” he said. “We trained our kids to stay under the table and that’s what I thought, you know, at the time. But we set them up to be like ducks. You can give them all the training you want but it’s – the laws have to change.”

He added: “I will go to the end of the world to make sure things get changed.”