On the day of the Uvalde massacre, fourth graders Khloie Torres and Miah Cerrillo, surrounded by the bodies of classmates and their teacher at Robb Elementary School, whispered but managed to speak clearly and politely to a 911 operator.
“Please hurry,” Khloie, who – along with Miah – would survive the rampage, implores the stranger on the line.
Just a few feet away from the connected classrooms – and around the Uvalde, Texas, school building – several platoons of law enforcement officers had assembled. Ultimately, 376 law enforcement personnel would respond during the May 24 slaughter.
The 911 calls from students trapped with the gunman offer a disturbing glimpse into the widely criticized police response.
“There’s a school shooting,” Khloie, then 10 years old, tells the dispatcher at 12:10 p.m.
“I have multiple units there,” the dispatcher says calmly. “Are you with officers or are you barricaded somewhere?”
“I’m in classroom 112.”
“What’s you name ma’am?”
“Khloie Torres,” says the girl, according to the 911 calls, which CNN obtained from a source and is using with the approval of her and Miah’s parents. “There’s a lot of dead bodies.”
CNN also informed families who lost people in the massacre about the stories on the 911 calls, which should have ended any doubt or hesitation the shooter was active and roaming the connected classrooms and that children were trapped, injured and needed to be saved.
“Please get help,” Khloie begs. “I don’t wanna die. My teacher is dead. Oh, my God.”
Other children are heard in the background.
A teenage gunman had entered the school more than 30 minutes earlier – at 11:33 a.m. – and eventually killed nineteen children and two teachers. At least one child and one teacher survived the initial attack but died later.
Law enforcement officers did not confront and kill the shooter until 12:50 p.m. – some 40 minutes after Khloie’s first whispered pleas for help.
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At 12:11 p.m., then school district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired over the summer, calls out to the shooter in English and Spanish to surrender, according to body camera footage from an officer near the classrooms.
“This could still be peaceful,” he says. “Could you tell me your name?”
Khloie, using her teacher’s phone, whispers to the dispatcher at 12:12 p.m.: “I need help… Have y’all captured the person?”
“Khloie, stay on the line with me OK,” the dispatcher says.
“One of my teachers is dead,” the girls says.
A wail is heard in the background.
“Be quiet,” the dispatcher says.
“I’m telling everyone to be quiet but nobody is listening to me,” Khloie says. “I understand what to do in these situations. My dad taught me when I was a little girl. Send help.”
About the same time Khloie asks whether the shooter has been captured, the police dispatcher delivers an urgent message to the law enforcement officers on the scene. It can be heard on audio captured by body cameras worn by officers in the school.
“Uvalde to any units: Be advised we do have a child on the line … Is anybody inside of the building at this time?”
“Go ahead with that child’s information. Relay it,” someone responds.
“The child is advising he [sic] is in the room full of victims, full of victims at this moment.”
At 12:15 p.m., Khloie again pleads for help on the phone.
The girl, close to tears, tells the operator her teacher, Eva Mireles, is alive but has been shot. “Send help,” she says.
Minutes later, Khloie, referring to the police, asks, “How far are y’all away?”
“They’re inside of the building, OK? You need to stay quiet, OK?”
CNN obtains 911 audio from a student in Robb Elementary
As the dispatcher tries to reassure Khloie, Arredondo is seen in body camera footage standing in a hallway. He is talking to at least four officers. The officers are crouched for cover at a school entrance, one of them holding a ballistic shield. Arredondo requests a master key and mentions the use of a sniper.
Police body-worn camera videos show Arredondo at the center of the response: giving orders, conveying and receiving information, and officers deferring to his position when confused over their roles or response to the shooting. But Arredondo has said he did not see himself as the incident commander.
Still, the hundreds of officers on the scene represented 23 local, state and federal agencies, including 91 from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Col. Steven McCraw, DPS director and Texas’ top cop, has acknowledged failures in the response, most recently to bereaved families. But he has insisted his agency did not fail the community.
The law enforcement response has come under fire since the massacre, with agencies blaming each other for not eliminating the threat early in the operation, treating the siege as a barricade situation and waiting for equipment and reinforcements before confronting the shooter.
It was 12:19 p.m. when Miah Cerrillo, an injured fourth grader inside the connected classrooms, came on the 911 call, taking over from Khloie.
“Hi, can you please send help?” Miah asks.
At this point, 46 minutes had passed since the shooter was seen entering the connected classrooms. More than 30 minutes would pass before he was killed.
“Are they in the building?” Miah asks, over and over, about the law enforcement response.
“They are in the building but do not open that door until I tell you all to open the door,” the dispatcher says.
Miah would later describe smearing blood on herself and playing dead during part of the siege.
At 12:21 p.m., moments after Arredondo asks for a breaching tool, a number of shots echo through the hallway. Officers take cover. The former chief tries to communicate with the shooter.
“Can you hear me, sir? Can you hear me, sir?” he says.
“Sir, if you can hear me, please put your firearm down. We don’t want anybody else hurt,” the former chief says.
“He’s shooting,” Miah, who turned 12 on Friday, tells the 911 operator when the gunfire erupts.
“Stay quiet, make sure everybody stays quiet,” the operator tells her.
During the call, armed responders can be seen standing outside the connecting classrooms 111 and 112. They wait and talk and check equipment and call for tools.
Arredondo then yells at the gunman again: “Sir, if you can hear, please put the gun down. We don’t want anybody else hurt.”
“Tell him in Spanish,” someone says.
Arredondo yells in Spanish: “If you can hear me, put the weapon on the ground. We don’t want any more injuries. Please respond.”
No response. The wait continues.
At 12:27 p.m. Arredondo is heard saying, “People are going to ask why it’s taking so long. We’re trying to preserve the rest of the life first. So that’s what we’re doing.”
“Team ready to go? Got a team ready to go?” Arredondo asks officers moments later. “Have at it.”
“F**k, we don’t have a key,” one officer says seconds later. “He probably has it barricaded anyway.”
Arredondo gets on his phone.
“I’m going to get more keys,” he says, adding that the master keys are not opening the doors.
Just before 12:30 p.m., now off the phone, Arredondo is heard apparently formulating a plan and assigning roles.
“We’re ready to breach,” he tells a tactical officer in the hall. “But that door is locked.”
Minutes later, someone is heard on the body camera footage asking: “We don’t know if he has anyone in the room with him, do we?”
“I think he does,” Arredondo replies, according to the Texas legislative report of the shooting response.
“Eight or nine children,” another officer says.
Indeed, information culled from the calls by Khloie, Miah and others inside the classrooms was relayed to officers on the scene.
“Supposedly, one kid called as it was underway. He’s been in that room for an hour now,” one officer tells a newly-arrived responder, apparently referring to the shooter.
A Border Patrol medic who arrived on the scene knew about the children trapped in the classrooms.
“EMT! EMT!” he shouts as he asks how to reach victims in one of the classrooms.
An officer shrugs. Another officer says: “No, we hadn’t heard that,” apparently referring to reports of injured children.
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The medic informs them: “They just had a kid in room 12 [sic], multiple victims, room 12.” He moves into the hallway where officers are huddling.
“They said kids, room 12.”
At one point the medic says, “F**k. We’re taking too long.”
In the classroom, Khloie makes another 911 call at 12:36 p.m.
“There’s a school shooting,” Khloie says.
“Yes, I’m aware,” the dispatcher responds. “I was talking to you earlier. You’re still there in your room? You’re still in room 112?”
“Yeah,” the girl says.
“OK. You stay on the line with me. Do not disconnect,” the dispatcher says.
Minutes later, Khloie again implores the dispatcher: “Can you tell the police to come to my room?”
“I’ve already told them to go to the room. We’re trying to get someone to you, OK?”
The dispatcher repeats: Stay down.
“If you hear anyone come in, but they’re not supposed to be there, and they don’t say that they’re police, y’all pretend that you are asleep, OK?” the dispatcher says.”
“OK,” the girl whispers.
Just before 12:40 p.m., according to body camera footage, Arredondo and another officer again try to engage the gunman in English and Spanish – this time referring to him by his last name.
“Can you hear us sir? Please don’t hurt anyone. These are innocent children. Please put your firearm down. We don’t want anybody else hurt. Can you hear me, sir? Please put your firearm down,” the former chief says.
No response is heard, according to the body camera footage.
At 12:41 p.m. Arredondo is on his phone: “Just so you understand, I think there are some injuries in there. And what we did, we cleared off the rest of the building so we wouldn’t have any more besides what’s in there, obviously.”
At 12:49 p.m. a helicopter is advised to keep watch in case the shooter tries to escape via the roof.
Border Patrol tactical officers breached the classroom door at 12:50 p.m. and killed the gunman as he stood in front of a closet in Room 111.
On Khloie’s 911 call, bursts of gunfire echo across the connected classrooms.
“Stay down,” the dispatcher says moments later. “Do not get up.”
Officers are heard frantically moving children out of the classrooms. “Move, move! Go, go!”
Khloie and Miah, along with other injured classmates, are rushed to a hospital.
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