Residents of Uvalde, Texas say they don’t know what to make of police’s astonishing admission Friday that they waited more than an hour outside the locked door of two classrooms at Robb Elementary School while children were inside with the shooter shooting 19 of their classmates and two teachers.
“In hindsight, of course, it was not the right decision,” Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters during a press conference outside of school.
He said the incident commander at the scene on Tuesday, who was a member of the school district’s own police force, determined that when three police officers from Uvalde entered the school at 11:35 a.m., the situation was no longer an active shootout but a barricaded shooter scenario and “no more children were in danger”.
“Obviously, based on the information we have, there were kids in that class who were at risk, and it was, in fact, still an active shooter situation,” McCraw said.
At 12:03 p.m. there were 19 officers from four different police departments in the hallway outside the adjoining classrooms and yet the officers did not come through the door until 47 minutes later – and only after getting keys from a school janitor.
No surprise for parents who watched the filming unfold
The detailed new timeline confirmed what many parents and loved ones who rushed to school on Tuesday and desperately tried to push officers to save their children had suspected.
A father who had driven to school to check on his niece said officers at the scene were urging passers-by from nearby houses to enter.
“”Enter the house! Enter the house!’ That’s what they were yelling. “There’s a gunman, high-powered gun,” he said as he stopped for snow cones at Extreme Southern Sno Pitt Stop with his two children.
“They already knew everything. Like, OK, so why didn’t you all come in?”
The father did not want to be identified in police interviews, but said he has relatives in law enforcement and believes that rushing to try to save lives in such a situation, even at the expense of his, is part of the oath that officers commit. when taking up work.
“What’s the reason to be careful? That’s what you swear, especially [with] kids.”
Selena Tristan, 46, did not watch the press conference because she tried to keep media coverage away from her son, who was in a 2nd grade class at the opposite end of Robb Elementary during filming , but she says many parents are upset.
“I know a lot of people are upset because they don’t understand what took so long..”
‘As long as someone shoots, you go to the gun’
Although McCraw said Friday that officers were following barricaded shooter protocol and believed it was time to retrieve the keys to the classroom and wait for a tactical team with equipment to come through the door, he also admitted that they should have broken that protocol.
“When you have an active shooter, you don’t have to wait tactically,” he said. “As long as there are kids and as long as someone is shooting, you go to the gun, you find it, you neutralize it. Period.”
While McCraw told reporters that the hundreds of bullets 18-year-old Salvador Ramos fired into the two classrooms were fired in just the first four minutes he was inside the school and that any shooting thereafter was sporadic and at the door there were multiple 911 calls made by two children inside during the 47 minutes that 19 officers waited outside.
McCraw said police are still trying to determine if anyone died during that time.
“It touches me,” Linda Sosa said.
The 74-year-old grandmother said she had lived in Uvalde all her life and had not had good experiences with the police. She has a son in jail serving time for drug possession who she says was manhandled by police officers when he was arrested.
“My son did wrong, I can accept that, but the way they treated him, they should have treated this guy who killed so much [many] little children who didn’t know what was going on.”
Sosa grew up living next door to Celia Gonzalez, Ramos’ grandmother – who was the first to be shot as he embarked on his rampage. She described Gonzalez, who survived the shooting, as a friendly person and Ramos as “very calm”.
“I wouldn’t believe he would do something like that,” Sosa said.
Reluctant to criticize
Gloria Garcia is more willing to give officers the benefit of the doubt.
“I don’t know what the truth is,” said the 88-year-old, who lives on Geraldine Street, a short walk from Robb Elementary. “I hate to say anything bad about the police, but, you know, it could be true that they were slow to react.”
She was at home on the day of the shooting, just down the street from where Ramos crashed his car into a ditch before walking to school a few yards away. She heard three loud bangs and thought someone had hit the wall of her house.
“A few minutes later I heard boom, boom, boom, boom. I thought they were killing birds because there are a lot of trees there.”
It wasn’t until she got a call from her daughter, who is a therapist at a local college, that she realized it was more serious.
“She says, ‘Mom, if you’re out, come inside. There’s something terrible going on with Robb,'” she said. “And then I looked out the window and saw all the commotion.”
The officer passed the shooter moments before he walked inside
One of the details from Friday’s press conference was that an officer from the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District assigned to Robb Elementary came across the shooter while he was still in the school parking lot. The officer was pursuing what he believed to be the shooter near the back door of the school and did not spot Ramos hiding behind a car.
It is common for school districts in Texas to have their own police officers, and Uvalde District has six. Officials initially said the school officer was on scene and engaged the shooter. But they later clarified that was not the case and that he only arrived after the first 911 call and then helped evacuate children to other classrooms with other officers .
“They have an official officer in each [school]but I mean, I’ve been here a few times for other things, like ceremonies, and they’re not always there,” said Sandra Medina, whose daughter Jazmine was in a 4th grade class, a few rooms away. the place where the shooter was shooting.
Some parents who saw police hold back and then later give a contradictory account of their intervention had openly criticized the response even before Friday’s admission of multiple failures.
“I even asked the cops, ‘Do you all need help?'” said Javier Cazares, who was desperately trying to reach his nine-year-old daughter, Jacklyn, who was killed inside. school with her cousin. “We were ready to rush…we were so angry.”
Cazares told CBC’s Susan Ormiston earlier this week that he couldn’t bear the thought of her and her classmates being alone with the shooter for so long before help arrived.
“God knows how long my little girl and the others have been like this,” he said, his voice shaking and his breath hitching with realization.
He said he wanted more parents to get angry and hold officials and the police to account.
“Their job was to step in and save lives, not wait,” he said Thursday.
But on Friday, McCraw had little consolation to offer Cazares and others when reporters asked him what he would tell them.
“I have nothing to say to the parents other than what happened,” he said. “We are not here to defend what happened; we are here to report the facts… If I thought it would help, I would apologise.”