WASHINGTON — A Robb Elementary School teacher who was shot during the deadly May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, criticized police for the slow response and vowed that he would not let the 19 children and two teachers killed in the attack "die in vain."
In an interview with ABC News, Arnulfo Reyes, who taught in room 111, recalled for the first time what happened during the May 24 massacre.
Reyes said some children had gone home after a special end-of-the-year awards ceremony the elementary school hosted that day, but 11 of his third and fourth grade students stayed.
They were watching a movie when they heard gunfire. Reyes recalled to ABC News that he told the students to "get under the table" and "act like you're asleep." As they were doing that, Reyes said he turned around and saw the gunman, who shot him twice.
In the emotional interview with ABC, Reyes confirmed all 11 of his students were killed in the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
"I tell my parents, 'I’m sorry. I tried my best, what I was told to do,'" Reyes said. "Please don’t be angry with me."
From his hospital room in San Antonio, Reyes heavily criticized the police response to the active shooter situation, saying that he and his students "had nothing" while officers waited outside the classroom wearing bulletproof vests.
"They're cowards," he said. "They sit there and did nothing for our community. They took a long time to go in… I will never forgive them."
An investigation into the police response determined the gunman spent nearly 80 minutes inside the school before a responding Customs and Border Patrol tactical team broke into the barricaded classrooms and killed the suspect, all while students inside placed 911 calls and parents outside the building pleaded with law enforcement to rescue their children.
In the two weeks since the shooting, Reyes said he has undergone five surgeries and two blood transfusions.
The teacher added that school lockdown drills did not adequately prepare him and his students for the mass shooting, and he believes that the only way to prevent future massacres is to pass new laws restricting firearm access.
"We set them up to be like ducks," Reyes said. "You can give us all the training you want, but gun laws have to change.
“I will not let these children and my coworkers die in vain. I will not," he continued. "I will go anywhere, to the end of the world to not let my students die in vain. They didn't deserve this. Nobody in this world deserves this kind of pain. No mother, nobody deserves this. I will go to the end of the world to make sure things get changed."