Police made ‘wrong decision’ during school shooting: Officials

While a gunman was inside adjoining classrooms with children at a Texas elementary school, a group of 19 law enforcement officers stood in a hallway outside and took no action as they waited for room keys and tactical equipment, a state official said Friday.

"The on-scene commander at that time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject," Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Col. Steven McCraw said.

"From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There's no excuse for that," he said.

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Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw speaks during a press conference held outside Robb Elementary School on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

While officers waited outside adjoining classrooms at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, children inside the room repeatedly called 911 and pleaded for help, he said.

"The belief was there isn't anybody living anymore and that the subject is now trying to keep law enforcement at bay or entice them to come in" and shoot them, he said.

The damning revelation explains the lengthy wait between when officers first arrived to the school at 11.44am and when a tactical team finally entered the room and killed the gunman at 12.50pm. The tactical team was able to enter using keys from a janitor, McCraw said.

Nineteen students and two teachers were killed Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde before the team killed the gunman, ending the deadliest US school shooting in almost a decade.

Officials initially praised the law enforcement response and noted that the carnage could have been worse. But revelations from McCraw and from DPS regional chief Victor Escalon a day earlier revealed major flaws in the response and contradictory information.

The friends of family of Miranda Mathis grieve her loss in front of a cross bearing her name in Uvalde, Tx., U.S., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

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Emergency protocol established since the Columbine school shooting of 1999 is to end the threat as quickly as possible because fatalities occur in seconds to minutes.

"The levels of failure are just incredible, beyond belief," said Anthony Barksdale, the former acting Baltimore police commissioner.

The shooting in Uvalde is the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school in 2022. The attack came less than two weeks after a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and has left Americans grieving yet again and many renewing calls for gun law reform.

Gunman entered school unobstructed, officials says

Investigators are still piecing together a timeline of the carnage, Escalon, DPS' South Texas regional director, said during a news conference. "With all the different agencies that are involved, we're working every angle that's available," Escalon said. "We won't stop until we get all the answers that we possibly can."

After shooting his grandmother in her home, Ramos drove to Robb Elementary, where he crashed his truck in a nearby ditch, DPS Sgt. Erick Estrada said. It's unclear why he crashed.

Law enforcement and Uvalde students

The shooter then fired at two witnesses across the street before climbing a fence, moving toward the school and shooting at the building, according to Escalon.

There were no officers outside the school to stop Ramos, who "walked in unobstructed initially," Escalon said Thursday. Earlier information about a school resource officer engaging the gunman was "not accurate," he said.

Ramos got into the building through an apparently unlocked door at 11:40 a.m., Escalon said. That door is normally locked, "unless you are leaving to go home on the school bus," former principal Ross McGlothlin told CNN.

Inside the school, the shooter barricaded himself inside two adjoining classrooms and fired more than 25 times, Escalon said.

A vehicle passes an electronic billboard Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Richland, Miss., that expresses support for the residents of Uvalde, Texas, in the wake of the deadly school shooting Tuesday.

At 11.44am, law enforcement arrived and entered the school.

What law enforcement did inside and outside the school

What happened in the hour between their arrival and the gunman's death remains murky.

At least seven officers rushed into Robb Elementary within four minutes of the shooter's arrival, DPS spokesperson Chris Olivarez told CNN. Three officers went in the same door the shooter used and four used a different entrance, Olivarez told CNN.

When they confronted the shooter, he fired at them and they took cover. Two responding officers were shot; their injuries were not life threatening, said Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez.

"It is important for our community to know that our officers responded within minutes" alongside school resource officers, he said.

Officers then called for more tactical teams and resources, such as body armor, while they worked to evacuate teachers and students, Escalon said. About an hour later, a US Border Patrol tactical team entered and killed Ramos, he said.

Two Texas Troopers light a candle at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

When asked for more details at a news conference about what exactly responding officers were doing in the hour-long period, Escalon declined to provide further information.

Outside the school, chaos and confusion reigned as distraught parents showed up and implored law enforcement to force their way in and kill the gunman. One father even asked officers to give him their gear, he said.

"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," Victor Luna told CNN. His son survived.

Instead, officers held parents behind yellow police tape, refusing to let them enter as crying and screaming echoed around them, several videos show. After about an hour, a US Border Patrol tactical team forced its way into the classroom and fatally shot the gunman, Escalon said.

Equipment from the San Antonio Fire Department is parked outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Members of the US Marshals Service can be seen in video holding back parents who pleaded to enter the school. US Marshals said in a statement they were called to the school at 11.30am and arrived about 40 minutes later from Del Rio, about 113km away.

The first deputy US Marshals to arrive entered the school to assist the Border Patrol tactical team already engaging with the shooter. The deputies also rendered aid to victims. Other deputies were asked to secure the perimeter around the school, but never arrested or placed anyone in handcuffs, the agency said.

"Our deputy marshals maintained order and peace in the midst of the grief-stricken community that was gathering around the school," the agency said.

Grieving community reckons with aftermath

Days after the massacre, the residents of Uvalde are still saturated in grief. The final victims' remains were returned Thursday night to families. Six people were still hospitalised Thursday, including the shooter's grandmother, who was shot in the face.

And the devastating news continued to pour in Thursday as word spread that the husband of a slain teacher died of a heart attack brought on, his family said, by a broken heart.

People march along a local street at the end of a vigil to stand in solidarity with the Uvalde, Texas, families and demand an end to gun violence on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Newtown, Conn.

Joe Garcia's death was confirmed by the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Irma Garcia was a fourth-grade teacher and had been married to Joe for over 25 years, according to a GoFundMe campaign posted by her cousin.

For survivors, trauma is sinking in. Edward Timothy Silva, a second grader who hid behind desks in the dark at the school as he heard loud noises in the distance now wonders: "Does he have to go to school next year," his mother Amberlynn Diaz said.

"And I just don't want him to be afraid of school," she said. "I want him to continue learning and not be scared of going back to school. I want him to have a normal life again."

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