“I’m in classroom 112,” the little girl tells the police dispatcher. “Please hurry. There is a lot of dead bodies.”
The clear plea comes in a 12:10 p.m. call from Khloie Torres, then 10 years old and trapped at Robb Elementary School with a gunman who has slaughtered her friends and a teacher. Khloie, now 11, survived.
“Please get help. I don’t wanna die. My teacher is dead. Oh, my God.”
The dispatcher sends out the message to the dozens, soon to be hundreds of law enforcement officers swarming to the school in Uvalde, Texas.
It’s more than 30 minutes since the teenager entered the school and shot his way into classrooms 111 and 112.
And it takes 40 more minutes from Khloie giving details to authorities until a strike team burst into the room, challenging the gunman at 12:50 p.m.
CNN has heard this 911 call, and others made by the same girl and classmates, whispering information and pleading for help. It’s the call that should have ended any doubt or hesitation that the teenage gunman was active, roaming between the two connected classrooms, that children were trapped, injured and needed to be saved.
The entire law enforcement response has been condemned, almost from start to finish. And agencies have blamed each other in changing narratives since the massacre on May 24, for not following up on the initial attempt to go into the classroom when the gunman fired back, to treating the suspect as barricaded but not an active threat, and long waits for equipment and specialist personnel.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed that day, though at least one adult and one child did not die immediately. Texas’ top cop, director of the Department of Public Safety Col. Steven McCraw, has acknowledged failures, most recently to bereaved families last week, but insisted his department as a whole did not fail the community.
CNN obtained the calls from a source and is using excerpts with the approval of Khloie’s parents. CNN also informed families who lost people in the massacre that this story was coming.
Khloie’s father, Ruben Torres, a former Marine, said he knew how hard it was to give good information when under fire. “That day, the things that she did were absolutely incredible,” he said of his daughter. Of the adults who responded, he said: “None of them had courage that day.”
“I need help … please. Have y’all captured the person?” the fourth grader asks at 12:12 p.m. And a few minutes later, “You want me to open the door now?”
Time and again Khloie is told by the dispatcher to stay quiet, to keep her terrified and injured friends quiet, and to wait.
“I’m telling everyone to be quiet but nobody is listening to me,” she tells the operator. “I understand what to do in these situations. My dad taught me when I was a little girl. Send help.”
She tells the 911 operator that her teacher – Eva Mireles – is alive but has been shot and asks for an ambulance at 12:15 p.m.
Outside, a final total of 376 armed law enforcement personnel are gathering.
At 12:12 p.m. the radio call goes out: “Uvalde to any units: Be advised we do have a child on the line … room 12 [sic]. Is anybody inside of the building at this time?”
“Go ahead with that child’s information,” an answer comes back.
“The child is advising he [sic] is in in the room full of victims, full of victims at this moment.”
“10-4,” comes the confirmation.
The announcement can clearly be heard on audio captured by body cameras worn by officers inside the school.
There was plenty of 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 truck near the school, both of which triggered emergency calls.
Once in the school, it wasn’t immediately known whether the shooter went to an office or a classroom, or whether he had victims with him.
But the call from Khloie and some of her classmates who came on the line or made their own attempts to call for help were clear. And known.
The news spreads beyond those who heard the initial transmission.
“Supposedly one kid called as it was underway. He’s been in that room for an hour now,” an officer tells a newly arrived responder, apparently referring to the shooter.
“We don’t know if he has anybody in the room with him, do we?” asks an officer in the hallway outside the classrooms. “He does,” comes the reply. “Eight or nine children.”
While some are talking about gas masks and shields and a command post, an emergency medic from Border Patrol arrives. He, too, knows about the children.
“EMT! EMT!” he shouts as he asks how to get to the victims in “Room 12.” One officer shrugs. Another who’s been on the scene for more than 20 minutes says, “No, we hadn’t heard that,” apparently referring to injured children.
The medic tells them: “They just had a kid in room 12, multiple victims, room 12.” He goes inside the hallway to where more officers are huddling. “They said kids, room 12.”
There’s talk of finding a master key.
Then more gunshots.
Officers with long guns, helmets and body armor move a little closer, and stop.
“F**k. We’re taking too long,” the medic says.
Inside the classroom, Khloie starts her third call to 911.
“Can you tell the police to come to my room?” she asks. And again, minutes later, “Can you send a policeman in now, please?”
She is told to stay quiet, to keep her classmates – some apparently moaning in pain – quiet, and wait.
She said to the dispatcher she thought she heard police in the hallway and was again advised to stay quiet.
Later, Khloie tells police how she was using her teacher’s phone, how she knew how to make the emergency call without having to unlock the phone as it was like her dad’s.
She also told of how she had time to try to help her friends while the gunman was in the adjoining classroom, where he killed all the students and wounded the teacher.
“I stood up to look for Band-Aids ‘cause my friend had a big cut.”
Then, fearing the shooter might come back to her room, she hid again, under a table.
The girl is on the call as officers finally force their way in to the room next door. Loud, prolonged bursts of gunfire can be heard as the dispatcher tells her: “Stay down. Do not get up. Stay down. Do not, do not move.”
The girl survives. She is taken to the hospital on a school bus with other injured classmates where she’s able to speak face to face with one of the responders, saying she was on the phone.
“I was trying not to cry,” she said.