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More than a dozen Uvalde students ‘remained alive’ for over an hour before police entered

The police chief of the Uvalde school district also disputed criticism of the police response to the May 24 shooting, saying officers "never hesitated."

A New York Times report analyzing video and law enforcement documents has found that more than a dozen students remained alive for more than an hour while officers took 77 minutes to end the standoff with a gunman in last month’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Investigators found that police were aware that not everyone inside the two classrooms at Robb Elementary School was dead as authorities waited for protective equipment before confronting the shooter, according to a report by the Times that cited analysis of law enforcement documents and transcripts of video body cam footage. 

NBC News has not seen or verified those materials. 

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed by the gunman in the attack. More than a dozen of the 33 children and three teachers who were in the two classrooms invaded by the gunman remained alive while officers waited to confront the shooter, according to video footage and other investigative material reviewed by the Times. 

A voice investigators believed to be Pete Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde school district, can be heard saying on body camera footage that “people are going to ask why we’re taking so long,” the Times reported.

Arredondo, 50, made his first extended comments since the shooting on May 24 in an interview with the Texas Tribune released on Thursday. 

He told the outlet that he ran toward the classroom armed with his service pistol to confront the shooter knowing he could be killed because he was not wearing body armor. However, he could not get the locked door open.

He said he tried dozens of keys to try to get the door open, but they wouldn’t work. After an hour, one set finally allowed police to enter and fatally shoot the gunman.

Arrendondo also called for tactical gear and a sniper while staying away from the door. He said the gunman was firing sporadically and “the ammunition was penetrating the walls at that point.” 

When he initially ran to the classroom, Arrendondo told the Texas Tribune that he did not carry any police radios, which meant he was never in contact with any of the other authorities that swarmed the scene. He had a cellphone, which he used to call police dispatch.

Arrendondo told the Tribune he didn’t carry radios because he believed they would slow him down. He also said, in his experience, police radios occasionally did not work in school buildings. 

“He said that was a conscious decision,” Texas Tribune reporter James Barragan said on TODAY Friday. “He rushed in there, put both of his hands on his gun, because he was taught that was the most accurate way to attack the shooter if he ran into him.” 

Arrendondo also said he “did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building” and that he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander. 

“Law enforcement experts that we talked to still criticize that response,” Barragan said. “As the police chief for the school district, they say he was the incident commander, and he needed to establish clear communications not only with his officers, but with the other law enforcement agencies that responded to the incident.”

The police chief disputed the criticism that lives were lost because officers waited to confront the shooter to preserve their own safety, telling the Texas Tribune that they “never hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk.”