“It wasn’t the right decision,” McCraw says of police action 3:31
(WABNEWS) — While a gunman was locked inside adjoining classrooms with children at a Texas elementary school, a group of 19 law enforcement officers stood in an outside hallway and took no action as they waited to get keys to the room. classrooms and tactical equipment, a state official said Friday.
Colonel Steven McCraw, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, explained that “the commander at the scene believed that he had gone from an active situation to an entrenched subject.”RELATED
“From the privilege of hindsight, where I am now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There is no excuse for it,” he said.
How did the massacre at the Uvalde school happen? 3:08
As officers waited outside adjoining classrooms at Robb de Uvalde Elementary School, children inside repeatedly called 911 and pleaded for help, he said.
“The belief was that no one was alive anymore and the subject is now trying to hold off law enforcement or lure them in” and shoot them, he said.
This damning revelation explains the long wait between the time officers first arrived at the school at 11:44 a.m. and the time a tactical team finally entered the room and killed the shooter, 12:50. The tactical team was able to get in using keys from a concierge, McCraw said.
Nineteen students and two teachers were killed Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde before the team killed the shooter, ending America’s deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.
Authorities initially praised law enforcement’s response, saying the carnage could have been worse. But the revelations made by McCraw and the regional head of the Department of Public Security, Víctor Escalón, revealed major flaws in the response and contradictory information a day earlier.
The emergency protocol established since the Columbine school shooting in 1999 is to end the threat as soon as possible because deaths occur in seconds or minutes.
“The levels of failure are just unbelievable, unthinkable,” said Anthony Barksdale, the former acting Baltimore police commissioner.
The Uvalde shooting is the deadliest at a school since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and at least the 30th shooting at an elementary and middle school in 2022. The attack came less than two weeks after a mass shooting racist in Buffalo, New York, and has left Americans heartbroken once again and with many renewing calls for gun law reform.
The surviving children describe what happened inside
Children who survived the shooting described what happened inside the school during the chaos.
To survive the nightmare, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo smeared herself in a classmate’s blood and played dead, she told WABNEWS.
Miah and her classmates were watching the movie “Lilo and Stitch” when the teachers Eva Mireles and Irma García received the news that there was an assailant in the building. One of the teachers went to close the door, but the assailant was right there and shot through the window of the door, Miah said.
When the teacher entered the classroom, the assailant followed her. He then looked a teacher in her eyes, said “good night” and shot her, the girl recalled.
And then he opened fire, shooting the other teacher and many of Miah’s friends. Bullets from her flew past her, Miah said, and fragments of her hit her shoulders and head.
The assailant then walked through a door and into an adjoining classroom. Miah heard screams and more gunshots. When the shooting stopped, the assailant started playing music “sad, as if he wanted people to die,” the girl said.
Girl would have faked her death during the shooting in Uvalde and survived 1:19
Afraid it would come back to kill her and her few surviving friends, Miah dipped her hands into the blood of a slain comrade lying beside her and daubed herself with it, she said.
The girl and a friend managed to get hold of a dead teacher’s phone and called 911 for help, she said. She told an operator: “Please send help because we are in trouble.”
The girls then fell to the ground and pretended to be dead.
Another student in a different classroom, Jayden Perez, 10, said that when he and his classmates heard gunshots, their teacher closed 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 were under a table. All the time he wondered what was going to happen to them.
“It was very scary because I never thought that was going to happen,” he told WABNEWS. “(I’m still) sad for some of my friends who died.”
He doesn’t want to go back to school again.
“No, because after what happened. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want anything to do with another shooting or being at school,” he said. “And I know it could happen again, probably.”
The attacker entered the school without obstacles, according to the authorities
Investigators are still piecing together the timeline of the massacre, said Escalon, DPS regional director for South Texas. during a press conferencea. “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 we can.”
After shooting his grandmother at her home, Ramos drove to Robb Elementary, where he crashed his truck into a nearby ditch, DPS Sgt. Erick Estrada said. It is not clear why he crashed.
The assailant then shot two witnesses across the street before scaling 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 “initially entered unhindered,” Escalon said Thursday. Previous information about a school resource agent who confronted the gunman “was not accurate,” he said.
Ramos entered the building through an apparently unlocked door at 11:40 a.m., Escalon said. That door is usually locked, “unless you’re leaving to go home on the school bus,” former principal Ross McGlothlin told WABNEWS.
Inside the school, the shooter barricaded himself in two adjoining classrooms and fired more than 25 shots, Escalon said.
At 11:44 a.m., law enforcement arrived and entered the school.
What law enforcement did inside and outside the school Video shows parents frustrated with police at the scene of the Texas shooting 4:02
What happened in the hour between his arrival and the assailant’s death remains unclear.
At least seven officers rushed into Robb Elementary School within four minutes of the assailant’s arrival, DPS spokesman Chris Olivarez told WABNEWS. Three officers entered through the same door used by the assailant and four used a different entrance, Olivarez told WABNEWS.
When they confronted the assailant, he shot them and they took refuge. Two of the officers were injured; his 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” along with school resource officers, he said.
Agents then called for more tactical equipment and supplies, such as bulletproof vests, as they worked to evacuate faculty and students, Escalon said. About an hour later, a US Border Patrol tactical team came in and killed Ramos, he said.
Asked for more details at a news conference about what exactly the responding officers were doing in the hour-long period, Escalon declined to provide more information.
Outside the school, chaos and confusion reigned as distraught parents turned up and implored law enforcement to break in and kill the assailant. One father went so far as to ask the officers to give him his equipment, he said.
“I myself told one of the agents that if they didn’t want to go in there, they could lend me their pistol and their vest and I would go in myself to take care of it. And they said no,” Víctor Luna told WABNEWS. His son survived.
Instead, officers held the parents behind yellow police tape, refusing to let them in as cries and screams echoed around them, multiple videos show. After about an hour, a US Border Patrol tactical team forced their way into the classroom and fatally shot the assailant, Escalon said.
In the video, members of the US Marshals Service can be seen holding back parents who pleaded to enter the school. The Marshals Service said in a statement that they were called to the school at 11:30 a.m. and arrived about 40 minutes later from Del Rio, about 70 miles away.
The first Marshals Service deputies to arrive entered the school to assist the Border Patrol tactical team that was already engaging the shooter. The agents also rendered assistance to the victims. Other deputies were asked to secure the perimeter around the school, but no one was arrested or handcuffed, the agency said.
“Our deputies maintained order and peace amid the bereaved community that gathered around the school,” the agency said.
Grieving community grapples with the aftermath
Days after the massacre, the residents of Uvalde are still in pain. The remains of the latest victims were returned to their families Thursday night. Six people remained hospitalized Thursday, including the attacker’s grandmother, who was shot in the face.
And the devastating news kept coming Thursday when news broke that the husband of a slain teacher died of a heart attack caused, according to his family, by a broken heart.
Joe Garcia’s death was confirmed by the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Irma Garcia was a fourth-grade teacher who had been married to Joe for more than 25 years, according to a GoFundMe campaign posted by her cousin.
Uvalde resident: I don’t understand, sometimes I get angry and want to scream 3:02
For survivors, the trauma is sinking in. Edward Timothy Silva, a second grader who hid behind desks in the dark at school when he heard loud noises in the distance, now wonders:
“Do I have to go to school next year?” said her mother Amberlynn Diaz. “And I don’t want her to be afraid of school,” she said. “I want her to keep learning and not be afraid to go back to school. I want her 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 Yan contributed to this report.