Texas Law Enforcement Scrutinized for Response to Uvalde School Shooting
Officials said the gunman entered the school unobstructed and that he was barricaded inside a classroom for nearly an hour-and-a-half before being killed.
UPDATE 5/27 at 12:53 P.M.: In a press conference held around 9 a.m. local time on Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw released an updated sequence of events and said the classroom should have been immediately breached by law enforcement.
McCraw said nearly 20 officers were outside of the classroom where the gunman was for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open the door and confront the gunman. The on-site commander, who McCraw identified as the school district’s chief of police, believed the gunman was barricaded in a classroom and that the children were not at risk, reports The Associated Press.
“Where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision, period. There’s no excuse for that,” McCraw said. “But again, I wasn’t there.”
“We believe there should have been an entry as soon as you can,” McCraw continued. “When there’s an active shooter, the rules change.”
McCraw also revealed an updated sequence of events. At 11:27 a.m., a teacher propped open the exterior door that the shooter entered through, according to video evidence. One minute later, the gunman crashed his vehicle in the ditch next to the school. Two men went to help and the gunman shot at them.
The teacher who propped open the door heard the commotion and ran to retrieve a phone and walked back to the door which remained propped open. The teacher called 911 at 11:30 a.m. A minute later, the gunman started walking in the school parking lot and shooting into classroom windows. At the same time, patrol cars arrived at the crash site.
At 11:33 a.m., the gunman entered the school and began shooting into a classroom. By 11:35 a.m., seven officers were on the scene and two of them were shot near the classroom door. The gunman then continued to fire inside the classroom with the door closed and locked.
“We do know that he shot more than 100 rounds based on the audio evidence at that time,” McCraw confirmed. “At least 100 rounds.”
The backup and tactical team did not arrive on the scene to make entry into the classroom until 12:57 p.m., he added. At 12:58 p.m., nearly an hour and a half after the gunman entered the school, it was confirmed over law enforcement radio that the gunman had been killed.
ORIGINAL POST 5/27 at 9:46 A.M. — The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday was not confronted by police before he entered the school, contradicting earlier comments made by officials and raising questions about law enforcement response.
“He walked in unobstructed initially,” Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Victor Escalon said Thursday. “So from the grandmother’s house, to the (ditch), to the school, into the school, he was not confronted by anybody.”
The day prior, a DPS representative said a school resource officer had “engaged” with the shooter before he went into the school, reports CNN.
Escalon’s contradictory statement was made during a news conference and has raised questions regarding the timeline of the shooting and officers’ response. During Thursday’s conference, Escalon said the gunman shot his grandmother and then crashed his truck in a ditch outside the school at 11:28 a.m. He exited the truck armed with a rifle and shot at two people across the street.
The shooter then approached the school and shot at the building multiple times before walking in through an unlocked door at 11:40 a.m., Escalon said. There was no school resource officer on-site or available at the time, he added. The district has four police officers, including a chief, detective, and two officers. It also employs additional security staff who patrol door entrances, parking lots, and campus perimeters.
Officers arrived on the scene at 11:44 a.m. When they confronted the gunman, he fired at them and they took cover, Escalon continued. Three law enforcement officers went in the same door the shooter used and four went through another entrance, said DPS spokesperson Chris Olivarez. Officers called for more resources and personnel, evacuated students and teachers in other parts of the school, and eventually entered negotiations with the suspect, according to Escalon.
Gunman Inside School for Almost an Hour Before Being Killed
Olivarez said Thursday morning that the suspect had barricaded himself in a classroom that was attached to an adjoining room. He said all of the 21 killed and 17 injured were inside those classrooms which corroborates statements made by officials Wednesday.
“We’re still trying to establish if that classroom was locked, and if it was locked, was there some type of barricade, was there some type of locking mechanism that did not allow those officers to make entry,” he added.
The shooter was locked inside the classroom with the victims for nearly an hour. “Numerous” police officers had assembled just outside the room, authorities said, but did not make any attempt to break through the door, according to The Guardian. They waited until the US Border Patrol tactical team arrived.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” said McCraw. “They did engage immediately. They did contain (the shooter) in the classroom.”
A law enforcement official who spoke to AP News on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation said Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a key from a staff member.
The public and victims’ families are demanding answers regarding why the gunman was able to remain in the classroom for an hour. As parents and other locals arrived at the active scene, some confronted officers, asking why they weren’t entering the building. One father, whose son survived, reportedly asked a law enforcement officer for gear.
“I told one of the officers myself, if they didn’t want to go in there, let me borrow his gun and a vest and I’ll go in there myself to handle it, and they told me no,” he told CNN.
Juan Carranza, who lives next to the school, told The Associated Press he witnessed women shouting at officers, “Go in there! Go in there!”
Javier Cazares, whose 10-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed, said police appeared unprepared and that he and other residents who had gathered outside the school started to make their own plans for entering the school.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said.
When Escalon was asked whether the police officers could have broken into the classroom sooner, he said, “Could anyone have gone [into the classroom] sooner? You have to understand, this is a small town.”
“There are a lot of possibilities,” he continued. “There were numerous officers at that classroom. Once we interview all those officers, we’ll have a better idea.”