Nearly 20 officers were in a hallway outside classrooms at a Texas elementary school for more than 45 minutes before officers used a master key to open a door and confront a gunman, authorities said at a news conference on Friday.
The on-scene commander believed the shooter was barricaded in a classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde during Tuesday’s attack and the children were not in danger, the director of the Department of Public Safety said. of Texas, Steven McCraw.
“Of course it was the wrong decision,” Mr. McCraw said.
“The decision was made that it was a barricaded subject, there was time to collect the keys and wait for a tactical team. That was the decision, that was the thought process.
“Looking back, of course, it wasn’t the right decision, it was the wrong decision. Period. There’s no excuse for that.”
U.S. Border Patrol officers eventually used a master key to open the locked classroom door where they confronted and killed the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, McCraw said.
The confirmed delayed response raises even more questions as to why Ramos was able to enter the school and stay there for so long before being hired by the agents.
Ramos crashed his car near the school around 11:30 a.m. local time before entering the building shortly after.
The door to the classroom he barricaded himself in was not kicked in until 12:51 p.m.
At least four 911 calls were made by children at the school during this period.
Following the shooting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott praised the “quick” and “valiant response of vigilant local officials” who he said engaged the shooter before he was killed. enters the school.
But witnesses say police were reluctant to confront the killer.
Online footage from the first minutes of the attack shows family members and members of the public urging police to storm the building.
“The police weren’t doing anything,” said Angeli Rose Gomez, who has two children at Robb Elementary.
They were standing just outside the fence. They weren’t going there or running anywhere.
What happened in that 90-minute window, in a working-class neighborhood near the outskirts of the town of Uvalde, has fueled growing public anger and scrutiny of law enforcement’s response to the rampage.
“They say they rushed,” said Javier Cazares, whose daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who ran towards the school as the massacre unfolded.
“We haven’t seen that.”
Friday’s update on the timing of the attack came only after authorities declined to explain why officers were unable to arrest the shooter earlier, director Victor Escalon regional department of the Texas Department of Public Safety, telling reporters Thursday that he had “taken all of these considerations” but was not ready to respond.
Thursday’s briefing, called by Texas security officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, provided previously unknown information.
But by the time it ended, it had added to troubling questions surrounding the attack, including how long it took police to reach the scene and confront the shooter, and the apparent inability to lock down a school door he entered.
After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer didn’t confront Ramos outside the building.
Instead, they sketched out a remarkable timeline for unexplained law enforcement delays.
After crashing his truck, Ramos shot two people coming out of a nearby funeral home, Mr Escalon said. He then entered the school “unobstructed” through an apparently unlocked door around 11:40 a.m.
But the first police did not arrive on the scene until 12 minutes after the accident and did not enter the school to pursue the shooter until four minutes later. Inside, they were pushed back by gunfire from Ramos and took cover, Mr Escalon said.
The shooter was still inside at 12:10 p.m. when first deputies from the US Marshals Service arrived.
They had gone to school nearly 70 miles away in the border town of Del Rio, the agency said in a tweet on Friday.
Our deputy marshals kept order and peace amidst the bereaved community that gathered around the school. Our hearts are heavy with grief and sadness at this horrific crime. We extend our condolences to all the victims and families affected by this tragedy.
— US Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) May 27, 2022
The crisis ended after a group of Border Patrol tactical officers entered the school at 12:45 a.m., Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said.
They engaged in a shootout with the shooter, who was locked in the fourth grade classroom. Moments before 1 p.m., he was dead.
Mr Escalon said during this time officers called in reinforcements, negotiators and tactical teams, while evacuating students and teachers.
Many other details of the case and the response remained unclear. The motive for the massacre remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, frustrated onlookers urged police to charge into the school, witnesses said.
” Go for it ! Go for it ! women yelled at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who observed the scene from outside a house across the street.
Mr Carranza said the officers should have entered the school earlier: “There were more of them. There was only one of him.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz didn’t give a timeline but repeatedly said his agency’s tactical officers who arrived at the school didn’t hesitate.
He said they moved quickly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind a shield-wielding officer.
“What we wanted to make sure was to act fast, to act fast, and that’s exactly what these officers did,” Ortiz said..
But a law enforcement official said once inside the building, officers had difficulty opening the door to the classroom and had to ask a member of staff to open the room with a key.