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Law enforcement officers in Uvalde, Texas, waited for more than an hour to storm the elementary school room where a gunman had shot 21 people, even though supervisors knew that some of the victims were severely injured but alive, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

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According to the story, a review of video footage showed that more than a dozen of the 33 children and three teachers who were originally in the two adjoining classrooms were alive from the time gunfire began to when officers entered the room and killed the suspect 77 minutes later.

Nineteen children and two teachers died in the attack.

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A man investigators believe is Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s police force, is heard on a video to agonize over how long it is taking to gain entrance into the room. The officers were waiting for protective gear and a key to get into the locked classroom.

“People are going to ask why we’re taking so long,” the man believed to be Arredondo could be heard saying during the one hour and 17-minute siege, according to a transcript of police body-camera footage. “We’re trying to preserve the rest of the life.”

One of the teachers died in an ambulance and three of the children died at nearby hospitals, according to documents cited by the Times.

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After a flurry of criticism for the response time, Arredondo described to The Texas Tribune what officers experienced in the school’s hallway including an excruciating wait for a key that would work.

Arredondo said the officers who responded that day did all they could based on what they knew at the time they entered the school.

“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” Arredondo said. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”

Arredondo told the Tribune that he made the decision to leave his police and campus radios outside the school. He wanted to keep his hands free as he went into the scene, he said.

Additionally, he said he never considered himself the commander at the scene. He denied that he called for officers in the hallway to pull back from the classroom.

“I didn’t issue any orders,” said Arredondo who attended the school as a child. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”

Arredondo said he tried to talk to the gunman through the classroom door but did not get a response. He told officers to start breaking classroom windows from the outside to evacuate the children and teachers from the rest of the school.

When the shooter was killed, Arredondo was part of a line of officers who passed injured children out of the classroom to waiting medical care, he said.