UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman during this week’s attack on a Texas elementary school repeatedly called 911, including one man who said “Please send the police now, As about 20 officers waited in the hallway. More than 45 minutes, officials said on Friday.
The commander at the scene in Uvalde, the school district’s police chief, believed the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, was locked inside the surrounding classrooms at Robb Elementary School and that the children were no longer in danger, Texas Chief Steven McCraw said in a controversial news conference by the Department of Public Safety.
“It was a wrong decision,” he said.
Friday’s briefing came after officers spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about 90 minutes after Ramos entered the school and when US Border Patrol agents opened the classroom door and killed him. .
Officials said Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers, but his motive was unclear.
McCraw said that the gunfire occurred shortly after Ramos entered orbit, where officers eventually killed him, but those shots were “sporadic” for 48 minutes while the officers waited in the hallway, McCraw. he said. He said investigators did not know how many children died during that period.
Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including one girl who pleaded: “Please send the police now,” McCraw said.
Questions have been raised over how long it took officers to enter the school to confront the gunman.
It was 11:28 a.m. Tuesday when Ramos’s Ford pickup crashed into a ditch behind the bottom of a Texas school and the driver jumped out carrying an AR-15-style rifle.
Twelve minutes after that, officials say, Ramos entered the school and found his way into the fourth grade classroom where he killed 21 victims.
But it was not until 12:58 p.m. when law enforcement radio chatter said that Ramos had been killed and that the siege was over.
Those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood near the edge of downtown Uvalde, fueled growing public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement’s response to Tuesday’s stampede.
“They say they walked in,” said Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacqueline Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who fled to the school as a massacre. “We didn’t see that.”
After crashing his truck, Ramos opened fire at two men coming out of a nearby funeral home, officials said, according to the new timeline provided by McCraw.
Contrary to earlier statements by officials, a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived. When that officer responded, he inadvertently overtook Ramos, who was sitting in the back of a car parked outside and firing at the building, McCraw said.
McCraw said that at 11:33 p.m., Ramos entered the school through the back door, which was kept open, and fired more than 100 rounds at a pair of classrooms.
DPS spokesman Travis Considine said investigators had not determined why the door was held open.
Two minutes later, three local police officers arrived and entered the building through the same door, immediately followed by four others, McCraw said. Within 15 minutes, 19 officers from different agencies had gathered in the hallway, taking sporadic fire from Ramos, who was hiding in a classroom.
Ramos was still inside at 12:10 p.m. when the first US Marshals Service deputy arrived. In a tweet on Friday, the agency said they had gone to school in the border town of Del Rio, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) away.
But the police commander inside the building decided the group should wait to confront the gunman, on the belief that the scene was no longer an active assault, McCraw said.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said the crisis ended at 12:45 a.m. after a group of Border Patrol tactical officers entered the school. They engaged in a shootout with the gunman, who was hiding in a fourth grade classroom. Moments before 1 pm, he was dead.
Ken Trump, president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said the length of the timeline raised questions.
“Based on best practices, it is very difficult to understand why there was any sort of delay, especially when you get into 40 minutes and reports of neutralization of that shooter,” he said.
The motive for the massacre – the nation’s deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut nearly a decade ago – remained under investigation, with officials saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, frustrated bystanders urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.
“Get in there! Get in!” The women shouted at officers shortly after the attack began, said 24-year-old Juan Carranza, who saw a scene outside a house across the street.
Carranza said officers should have entered the school sooner: “There were more of them. There was just one of them.”
Cajares said when he arrived he saw two officers outside the school and about five other students being taken out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before officers arrived with shields equipped to confront the gunman, he said.
As more parents flocked to the school, he and others pressured the police to act, Cajares said. Before he and the others were ordered back to the parking lot, he heard four gunshots.
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go out there. You all need to do your job.’ His reply was, ‘We can’t do our job because you guys are interfering,'” Cajares said.
Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, cautioned that it is difficult to get a clear understanding of the facts immediately after the shooting.
“The information we have a couple of weeks after an event is usually quite different from the information we get in the first day or two. And even that is usually quite wrong,” Dorn said. As for frightening events, “it’s usually eight to 12 months out before you have a really good picture.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
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