UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Law enforcement officers faced questions and criticism Thursday over how much time elapsed before Uvalde broke into an elementary school classroom and killed 19 children and two teachers by a gunman.
Investigators also couldn’t say for sure whether an armed school district security officer opened fire with the attacker, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, outside Rob Elementary when he first arrived on Tuesday.
The stampede – the nation’s deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut – remained under investigation a decade ago, officials said, adding that Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, which ended when a border patrol broke down and shot Ramo, frustrated bystanders urged police officers to charge at the school, according to witnesses.
“Get in there! Get in!” Soon after the attack began, the women shouted at the officers, said 24-year-old Juan Carranza, who saw the scene outside his home, across the street from the school.
Texas Department of Public Security Director Steve McCraw said Wednesday that it took 40 minutes to an hour for the tactical team to shoot him when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer.
But a spokesman for the department later said officials could not provide a solid estimate of how long the gunman had been at the school.
“The bottom line is that law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They got engaged immediately. He had included (Ramos) in the class.”
Meanwhile, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said Border Patrol agents had trouble breaking down the classroom door and had to let a staff member open the room with a key. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacqueline Cazares, was killed in the attack, said that when he heard about the shooting, he ran for school while police were still outside.
Upset that the police were not going inside, he, along with several other onlookers, took up the idea of charging into the school.
“Let’s just hurry up because the police are not doing anything as they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They weren’t ready,” he said.
Carranza watched as Ramos drove his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, and shot two people outside a funeral home without being injured. ran away.
Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Christopher Oliverez told Nation World News that the school security officer outside was armed and initial reports said he and Ramos exchanged gunfire. “But right now we’re trying to confirm that information,” Oliverez said.
After entering the school, Ramos locked himself in a classroom and started killing himself.
Carranza said the authorities should have entered the school sooner.
“There were more of them. There was only one of them,” he said.
Hundreds of people packed bleachers for cleaning at the city’s fairgrounds on Wednesday night. Some cried Some closed their eyes tightly, praying silently. Parents wrapped their arms around their children as speakers led a prayer for healing.
Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother in the house they shared.
Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was working in their yard when he heard the shots.
Ramos ran to the front door and a truck parked in front of the house in the yard, said Gallegos: “He got out, I mean fast,” sprinkling gravel in the air.
Ramos’s grandmother came out covered in blood: “She says, ‘Berto, that’s what he did. He shot me.'” She was hospitalized.
Gallegos said he had heard no arguments before or after the shots, and knew no history of Ramos’ bullying or abuse, which he rarely saw.
Lorena was teaching substitute teaching at Auguste Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth grade student at Rob Elementary. Eventually he came to know that the girl was fine.
But that night his niece had a question.
“Why did they do this to us?” The girl asked. “We’re good kids. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
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