(CNN) — “I’m in room 112,” the girl tells the police operator. “Please hurry. There are many dead.”
A clear plea is heard in the 12:10 a.m. call from Khloie Torres, then 10 years old and trapped inside Robb Elementary School with the gunman who killed her friends and teacher. Khloie, now 11, survived.
“Please get help. I don’t want to die. My teacher is dead. O Lord”.
The operator sends a message to the dozens, soon to be hundreds, of police officers who attend the school in Uvalde, Texas.
More than 30 minutes have passed since the teenager entered the school and opened fire in rooms 111 and 112.
And another 40 minutes pass from the time Khloie gives details to the authorities until the assault team bursts into the room and challenges the assailant at 12:50 p.m.
CNN heard this 911 call, as well as others made by the girl herself and classmates, whispering information and asking for help. It’s a call that should have ended any doubt or hesitation that the teenage attacker was active, wandering between two connected classrooms, that children were trapped, injured and in need of rescue.
The entire police response was doomed, almost from start to finish. And the agencies blamed each other for changing the narrative since the May 24 massacre, for failing to follow up on the first attempt to enter the classroom when the gunman returned fire, for treating the suspect as if he were barricaded but not an active threat, and for the long wait for equipment and specialized staff.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed that day, although at least one adult and one child were not killed immediately. Texas’ top cop, Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw, acknowledged setbacks, most recently with grieving families last week, but insisted his department as a whole has not failed the community.
CNN has received calls from sources and is using excerpts with permission from Khloe’s parents. CNN also notified the families who lost people in the massacre that this story is coming.
Khloe’s father, Ruben Torres, a former Marine, said he knows how difficult it is to give good information under pressure. “That day, the things she did were absolutely incredible,” he said of his daughter. Of the adults who responded, he said, “None of them had the courage that day.”
an agonizing wait
“Please, I need help. Has the person been caught?”, asks a fourth-grader at 12:12 p.m. And a few minutes later, “Do you want me to open the door now?”
Over and over, the operator tells Khloe to be quiet, to shut up her terrified and injured friends, and to wait.
“I tell everyone to shut up, but no one listens,” he tells the operator. “I know what to do in these situations. My dad taught me when I was a kid. Send help.”
She tells the 911 operator that her teacher, Eva Mireles, is alive but has been shot and calls 911 at 12:15.
A total of 376 armed policemen are gathering outside.
At 12:12 a radio call comes in: “Hello to any unit: Please note we have a child on the line… room 12 [sic]. Is there anyone in the building right now?
“Go ahead with that child’s information,” comes the reply.
“The boy warns that he [sic] The room is full of victims, full of victims right now.”
“10-4”, comes the confirmation.
The announcement can be clearly heard on audio recorded by body cameras worn by police officers at the school.
There was much confusion at the start of the massive response to the school shooting, which came after the gunman shot his grandmother in the head and crashed a van near the school, prompting 911 calls.
When he arrived at the school, it was not immediately known whether the attacker entered the office or classroom or whether he had victims with him.
But the call from Khloe and some of her colleagues who went online or tried to get help themselves was clear. And it was known.
The news spreads beyond those who heard the initial broadcast.
“Allegedly, the child called while I was driving. He was in that room for an hour,” the policeman said to the newly arrived person, obviously referring to the attacker.
“We don’t know if there’s anyone in the room with him, do we?” asks the agent in the corridor in front of the classrooms. “Yes, there is,” they answer. – Eight or nine children.
Emergency doctor: ‘We’re taking too long’
While some are talking about gas masks and shields and a command post, a Border Patrol emergency medical doctor (EMT) arrives. He also knows about children.
“EMT! EMT!” he shouts as he asks how to reach the victims in “Room 12”. The agent shrugs. Another who has been at the scene for more than 20 minutes says, “No, we didn’t hear that,” apparently referring to the injured children.
The doctor tells them, “They just had a baby in room 12, multiple victims, room 12.” Go into the hallway where more agents are piling up. “They said the kids, room 12.”
There is talk of finding a skeleton key.
Then more shots.
Agents with long rifles, helmets and body armor come a little closer and stop.
“F***. We’re taking too long,” says the doctor.
Inside the classroom, Khloie begins her third 911 call.
“Can you tell the police to come to my room?” she asks. And again, a few minutes later, “Can you send a police officer now, please?”
She was told to be quiet, to keep her classmates quiet (some were clearly moaning in pain) and to wait.
She told the operator that she thought she heard the police in the hallway, and he again advised her to be quiet.
Later, Khloie tells the police how she used her teacher’s phone, how she knew how to make an emergency call without unlocking the phone because it was the same as her father’s.
He also said that he had time to try to help his friends while the attacker was in the neighboring classroom, where he killed all the students and wounded the teacher.
“I got up to look for band-aids because my friend had a big cut.”
So, fearing that the attacker might return to his room, he hid again under the table.
The girl is on call when the cops finally break into the next room. There are loud, long bursts as the operator tells you, “Stay down. Don’t get up. Stay down. No, don’t move.”
The girl survives. She is taken to the hospital by school bus with other injured classmates, where she is able to speak face-to-face with one of the first responders, telling him she was on the phone.
“I was trying not to cry,” he said.