Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside classrooms for more than 45 minutes during this week’s attack on a Texas elementary school, before officers used a master key to open a door and confront a gunman, authorities said Friday.
The site commander believed the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had been barricaded in a classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde during Tuesday’s attack and that the children were in no danger, Texas Department director Steven McCraw said. or Public Safety. a press conference.
“He was convinced at the time that there was no longer a threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize” to enter the class, McCraw said.
“Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,” he said.
McCraw said U.S. Border Patrol agents eventually used a master key to open the locked classroom door where they confronted and killed Ramos, who killed 19 students and two teachers.
McCraw said there was a barrage of gunfire shortly after Ramos entered the classroom where they killed Ramos, but those shots were “sporadic” for most of the 48 minutes as officers waited outside the hallway. He said researchers don’t know if or how many children died in those 48 minutes.
During the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 for help, including one girl begging, “Send the police now,” McCraw said.
Questions have arisen about the time it took officers to enter the school to confront the gunman.
It was 11:28 a.m. Tuesday when Ramos’ Ford pickup slammed into a ditch behind the low-slung Texas school and the driver jumped out with an AR-15-style rifle.
Twelve minutes later, authorities say, 18-year-old Ramos entered the hallways of Robb Elementary School and made his way into a fourth-grade classroom, where he murdered 19 students and two teachers in a still-unexplained spasm of violence. .
But it wasn’t until 12:58 p.m. that police radio chatter said that Ramos had been murdered and that the siege was over.
What happened during those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of the town of Uvalde, has sparked growing public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement’s response to Tuesday’s frenzy.
“They say they stormed in,” said Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in the attack, and who ran to the school as the carnage unfolded. “We haven’t seen that.”
Friday’s update on the timeline of the attack came only after authorities refused to explain why officers were unable to stop the gunman sooner. Victor Escalon, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters Thursday that he had “answered all those questions. into consideration”, but was unwilling to answer them.
Thursday’s briefing, convened by Texas security officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, revealed bits of previously unknown information. But by the time it ended, it had added to the troubling questions surrounding the attack, including about the time it took for police to reach the crime scene and confront the gunman, and the apparent failure to open a school door that he entered to lock.
After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said a school district police officer was not at the school when Ramos arrived, and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer had not confronted Ramos outside the building.
Instead, they outlined a timeline notable for unexplained delays by law enforcement.
After crashing his truck, Ramos fired at two people coming from a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then entered the school ‘unobstructed’ at around 11:40am through an apparently unlocked door
But the first police officers didn’t arrive until 12 minutes after the accident and did not enter the school until four minutes later to chase the gunman. Inside, they were driven back by gunfire from Ramos and took cover, Escalon said.
The gunman was still inside at 12:10 p.m. when the first US Marshals Service deputies arrived. They had run to the school from nearly 70 miles (113 kilometers) away in the border town of Del Rio, the agency said in a tweet Friday.
The crisis came to an end after a group of tactical Border Patrol officers entered the school at 12:45 a.m., said Travis Considine, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. They got into a shootout with the gunman, who was holed up in the fourth grade classroom. He was dead just before 1 p.m.
Escalon said officers called for reinforcements, negotiators and tactical teams at the time as they evacuated students and teachers.
Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services consultancy, said the length of the timeline raised questions.
“Based on best practices, it’s very difficult to understand why there were delays, especially when you’re getting reports of 40 minutes and longer to neutralize that shooter,” he said.
Many other details of the case and response remained obscure. The motive for the massacre — the deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, frustrated onlookers, according to witnesses, urged police to raid the school.
‘Go in there! Get in there!” Women yelled at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.
Carranza said the officers should have entered the school earlier: “There were more. There was only one of him.”
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not provide a timeline, but repeatedly said that the tactical officers from his office who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved quickly to enter the building, in a “stack” behind an officer holding up a shield.
“What we wanted to make sure is act fast, act fast, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.
But a law enforcement officer said once inside the building, the officers struggled to break through the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Ministry of Public Security spokesman Lt. Christopher Olivarez, told CNN that investigators were trying to determine if the classroom was indeed locked or barricaded in some way.
Cazares said that when he arrived, he saw two officers standing outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before officers with shields arrived, equipped to confront the gunman, he said.
As more parents flocked to the school, he and others urged police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four gunshots before he and the others were sent back to a parking lot.
“Many of us argued with the police, ‘You all have to go in. You all have to do your job.’ Their answer was, ‘We can’t do our job because you’re interfering with it,’ said Cazares.
As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement officer not authorized to discuss the case and speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Investigators concluded that the school police officer was not located between the school and Ramos, preventing him from confronting the gunman before entering the building, the law enforcement officer said.
Michael Dorn, director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, warned that it is difficult to clarify the facts soon after a shooting.
“The information we have a few weeks after an event is usually very different from what we get the first day or two. And even that is usually quite inaccurate,” Dorn said. For catastrophic events, “it usually takes you eight to 12 months to get a really decent picture.”
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