UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) – It was 11:28 a.m. when a 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, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was in the hallway of Robb Elementary School. Soon he entered the fourth grade grade. And there, he killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in an unexplained spate of violence.
At 12:58, 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 the small town of Uvalde, fueled increasing public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement’s response to Tuesday’s stampede.
“They say they fled,” said Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacqueline Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who fled to the school when the massacre unfolded. “We didn’t see that.”
On Thursday, officers largely ignored questions about why officers weren’t able to stop the shooter sooner, with Texas Department of Public Safety regional director Victor Ascalon telling reporters that he took “all those questions into account.” ” and will offer update later.
Media briefings convened by Texas security officials to clarify the timeline of the attack provided fragments of previously undisclosed information. But by the time it ended, it had added to troubling questions surrounding the attack, including the time it took for police to arrive at the scene and confront the gunman, and the apparent failure to lock the school door.
After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators stated that a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived, and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer had not confronted Ramos outside the building. .
Instead, he drew up a remarkable timeline for unexplained delays by law enforcement.
After crashing his truck, Ramos fired at two men coming out of a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then made “unobstructed” entry into the school through an apparently open door at around 11:40.
But the first police officers did not reach the spot until 12 minutes after the accident and did not enter the school to chase the shooter until four minutes after that. Inside, they were chased back by Ramos’ bullets and took cover, Ascalon said.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said about an hour later, at 12:45 p.m., the crisis ended 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.
Escalon said that during that time officials called in backup, negotiators and tactical teams while evacuating students and teachers.
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.
Many other details of the case and response remained unclear. 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.”
Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz gave no timeline but said repeatedly that his agency’s tactical officers who arrived at the school did not hesitate. They said they proceeded quickly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind an agent holding a shield.
“We wanted to make sure to act quickly, act fast, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.
But one law enforcement officer said that once in the building, 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.
Lt. Christopher Oliverez, a spokesman for the Department of Public Security, told Nation World News that investigators were trying to establish whether the classroom was in fact closed or barricaded in some way.
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.
As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby, but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement officer who was not authorized to discuss the matter and Spoke on condition of anonymity.
The law enforcement official said investigators concluded that the school officer was not between the school and Ramos, rendering him unable to confront the shooter before entering the building.
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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