It was 'wrong' not to confront the Uvalde school shooter sooner, an official says
Col. Steven McCraw of the Texas Department of Public Safety said at a Friday news conference that in hindsight it was the wrong decision to not enter the classroom sooner in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman was located for more than an hour.
He said there were "plenty of officers" inside the school from the earliest minutes of the shootout, and as many as 19 officers from local and federal forces were in the hallway most of the time.
"From the benefit of hindsight, where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Period. There was no excuse for that," McCraw said.
The decision not to go in immediately was that of the incident commander on the scene, whom McCraw did not specifically name, but said it was the police chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department. Pete Arredondo is listed as the department's police chief on the school district's website.
NPR's call to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department went unanswered.
The press conference was at times tense and emotional as McCraw provided new details — major points of which were far different than the accounts from officials earlier this week.
Hundreds of rounds were fired in the first four minutes
McCraw also provided more information about how the shooter was able to gain access to the building: A teacher left the school to get her cell phone when she heard the nearby car crash and shots, but then as she re-entered, she propped the door open. The gunman had been hiding behind a car nearby, he said.
A school resource officer was not on campus when Ramos came onto the school property. McCraw said that once they had heard the fthis resource officer sped back to the school.
But this officer believed a teacher out in the parking lot was the suspect. McCraw said this officer managed to drive right past Salvador Ramos as he was hunkered down, behind a car, in the school parking lot.
At 11:32 a.m., Ramos fired multiple shots outside of the school before gaining entry to Robb Elementary through the side door. He made his way into an adjoining fourth grade classroom.
It was in the first four minutes that Ramos was in the school that there were hundreds of shots fired, McCraw said.
During this time, multiple local police officers converged in the hallway outside of the classroom and were shot at by Ramos. By 12:03 p.m., about 19 officers were gathered in the hallway outside the classroom.
This was after the majority of shooting has ceased, so the incident commander believed the situation transitioned from an active shooter situation to a barricaded subject situation, McCraw said, so that's why officers didn't go in.
"In fact there was plenty of officers to do whatever needed to be done," but they were operating under the orders of the incident commander, he said.
Students make several 911 calls to police
By 12:15 p.m., a Border Patrol tactical team was on the scene. Still, under the command from the school district police chief, no one was allowed entry inside.
This is despite the fact several 911 calls were made throughout the ordeal by children and others inside that classroom explaining that kids were hurt or dead and that the shooter was still inside.
Intermittent shooting continued during the ordeal, which officers did hear, McCraw said. At one point, Ramos reportedly shot at the classroom door towards police, forcing them to move further down the hallway.
One 911 recording showed that a child in one of the locked classrooms was on the phone with 911 for an extended period — and requested police to be sent in saying eight or nine kids were still alive, McCraw explained.
At 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour after the ordeal began — officers obtained keys from a janitor, entered the room, and shot the suspect, he said.
There were 142 spent rounds found inside the school, McCraw said, along with 173 live rounds. The gunman had a total of 60 magazines with him, he said, including 31 magazines that were in a backpack that he did not take with him inside the school.