“The site commander believed at the time that he had transitioned from an active gunner to a barricaded subject,” said Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Colonel Steven McCraw.
“In retrospect, where I am now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There is no excuse for that,” he said.
While officers waited outside adjacent classrooms of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, children in the room repeatedly called 911 and begged for help, he said.
“The belief was that no one is alive anymore and that the subject is now trying to keep the police at bay or entice them to come in” and shoot them, he said.
The scathing revelation explains the long wait between when the officers first arrived at the school at 11:44 AM and when a tactical team finally entered the room and killed the gunman at 12:50 PM. The tactical team was able to enter using a janitor’s keys, McCraw said.
Officials initially praised law enforcement’s response, noting that the carnage could have been worse. But revelations from McCraw and from DPS regional head Victor Escalon a day earlier revealed major flaws in response and conflicting information.
The emergency protocol put in place since the Columbine school shooting in 1999 is to end the threat as soon as possible, as fatalities occur within seconds to minutes.
“The number of failures is just unbelievable, unbelievable,” said Anthony Barksdale, the former acting Baltimore Police Commissioner.
Surviving children describe what happened inside
Children who survived the shooting described what happened in the school during the chaos.
Miah and her classmates were watching the movie “Lilo and Stitch” when teachers Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia heard of a gunman in the building. A teacher went to lock the door, but the gunman was there — and shot out the door window, Miah said.
As her teacher backed into the classroom, the gunman followed. He then looked a teacher in the eye, said “good night” and shot her, the girl recalled.
And then he opened fire and shot the other teacher and many of Miah’s friends. Bullets flew past her, Miah said, and fragments hit her shoulders and head.
The gunman then went through a door into an adjacent classroom. Miah heard screams and more gunshots. When the shooting stopped, the gunman started playing music that was “sad, like you want people to die,” the girl said.
Afraid he would come back to kill her and her few remaining friends, Miah put her hands in the blood of a murdered friend lying next to her and smeared herself with it, she said.
The girl and a friend managed to grab a dead teacher’s phone and call 911 for help, she said. She told a dispatcher, “Please send help, because we’re in trouble.”
The pair then lay down and played dead.
Another student in another classroom, 10-year-old Jayden Perez, said that when he and his classmates heard gunshots, his teacher locked the door and told them to hide and be quiet.
Jayden said he was hiding near the backpack storage area during the shooting. Others in his class sat under a table. All the while he wondered what would happen to them.
“It was very terrifying because I never thought that would happen,” he told CNN. “(I am) still sad about some of my friends who have passed away.”
He doesn’t want to go back to school.
“No, because after what happened. I don’t want to. I don’t want to have anything to do with another shooting or with me at school,” he said. “And I know it could probably happen again.”
Shooter entered the school unhindered, officials say
After shooting his grandmother in her house, Ramos drove to Robb Elementary where his truck crashed into a nearby ditch, DPS Sgt. said Erik Estrada. It is not clear why he crashed.
The gunman then fired at two witnesses across the street before climbing a fence, going to the school and firing at the building, Escalon said.
There were no officers outside the school to stop Ramos, who “initially walked in freely,” Escalon said Thursday. Previous information about a school employee who called in the gunman was “inaccurate,” he said.
Ramos entered the building at 11:40 a.m. through an apparently unlocked door, Escalon said. That door is normally locked, “unless you go home on the school bus,” former principal Ross McGlothlin told CNN.
Inside the school, the gunman barricaded himself into two adjacent classrooms and fired more than 25 times, Escalon said.
At 11:44 AM, the police arrived and entered the school.
What the police did inside and outside the school
What happened in the hour between their arrival and the shooter’s death remains obscure.
At least seven officers stormed into Robb Elementary within four minutes of the shooter’s arrival, DPS spokesman Chris Olivarez told CNN. Three officers went through the same door that the gunman used and four used a different entrance, Olivarez told CNN.
When they confronted the gunman, he fired at them and they took cover. Two responding officers were shot; their injuries were not life-threatening, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said.
“It’s important for our community to know that our officers responded within minutes,” he said, along with school officials.
Officers then called for more tactical teams and resources, such as body armor, as they worked to evacuate teachers and students, Escalon said. About an hour later, a tactical team from the US Border Patrol came in and killed Ramos, he said.
When Escalon was asked at a press conference for more details about exactly what the agents were doing during the hour-long period, Escalon declined to provide further information.
Chaos and confusion reigned outside the school as distraught parents showed up and begged the police to break in and kill the gunman. One father even asked officers to give him their equipment, he said.
“I myself told one of the officers that if they didn’t want to go in there, I could borrow his gun and a vest and then I’ll go in and handle it myself. And they said no,” said Victor Luna. . cnn. His son survived.
Instead, officers held the parents behind yellow police tape and refused to let them in as crying and screams echoed around them, several videos show. After about an hour, a tactical team from the US Border Patrol broke into the classroom and fatally shot the gunman, Escalon said.
Members of the US Marshals Service have been featured in videos stopping parents begging to enter the school. US Marshals said in a statement they were called to the school at 11:30 am and arrived about 40 minutes later from Del Rio, about 70 miles away.
The first deputy US Marshals to arrive entered the school to assist the Border Patrol tactical team already working on the gunman. The delegates also provided assistance to victims. Other deputies were asked to secure the perimeter around the school, but never arrested or handcuffed anyone, the agency said.
“Our deputy marshals maintained order and peace amid the grief-stricken community that gathered around the school,” the agency said.
Grieving community deals with aftermath
For survivors, the trauma imposes itself. Edward Timothy Silva, a sophomore who hid behind desks in the dark at school while hearing loud noises in the distance, is now wondering, “Does he have to go to school next year,” his mother said, Amberlynn Diaz.
“And I just don’t want him to be afraid of school,” she said. “I want him to keep learning and not be afraid to go back to school. I want him to have a normal life again.”
Tina Burnside, Carroll Alvarado, Adrienne Broaddus, Bill Kirkos, Joe Sutton, Shimon Prokupecz, Travis Caldwell, Jamiel Lynch, Whitney Wild, Andy Rose, Amanda Musa, Alexa Miranda, Monica Serrano, Amanda Jackson, Caroll Alvarado, Eric Levenson and Holly van CNN Yan contributed to this report.