A gunman who killed 19
children and two teachers at a South Texas elementary school walked
unopposed onto school grounds, state law enforcement officials said
Thursday — and once he was inside, it took police an hour to stop him.
In the days
after the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, officials with
the Texas Department of Public Safety said the shooter encountered a
police officer employed by the school district before charging through a
back door — and gave conflicting accounts about whether the officer
fired at the gunman.
now say there was no police officer on campus when the shooter first
arrived — but did not explain why they first believed there was.
The gunman crashed a
truck in a ditch near the school at 11:28 a.m., fired at two passersby
on the street, then entered the school 12 minutes later through a back
door before police arrived, DPS officials said Thursday.
“He was not
confronted by anybody,” Victor Escalon, a DPS official, said during a
press conference Thursday. The agency is leading the investigation into
the shooting along with Uvalde police.
enforcement response to the active shooter call has drawn mounting
scrutiny in the days since the massacre. State law enforcement officials
have given vague and conflicting answers on what exactly happened after
the gunman arrived at the school, and parents have criticized police
for not acting quickly enough to stop the shooter.
At a Wednesday
press conference in Uvalde, DPS Director Steve McCraw said that a school
police officer “engaged” with the gunman before he entered the school
but did not exchange gunfire with the gunman. Other DPS officials were
quoted in media reports saying there was an exchange of gunfire at that
Later on Wednesday, a
DPS spokesperson told the Tribune that the gunman "encountered a [Uvalde
school district] officer, but at this time we do not know if they
exchanged gunfire. They're still in the process of interviewing him, and
After a chaotic
and confusing press conference Thursday in 90-degree heat, the state’s
top law enforcement agency still has not answered key questions,
including why it took so long for officers to stop the 18-year-old
gunman and why an entrance to the school appeared to be unlocked,
allowing him to enter the building in the middle of the school day.
to answer several questions from reporters and to clarify discrepancies
in previous statements by agency officials, saying authorities “will
He offered new
details about the timeline of the law enforcement response Thursday,
saying local police officers were the first to arrive at the school —
about four minutes after the gunman entered — but had to fall back after
taking gunfire. Officers tried to negotiate with the shooter, he said,
but the man “did not respond.”
Escalon said most of
the gunfire from the shooter occurred when he first entered the school
but added that he continued to fire shots — some at police — as officers
attempted to make contact.
It took officers
an hour to kill the gunman once he was inside as law enforcement
officers called "everyone that's in the area" to help, then waited for
"specialty equipment" and body armor andorganized a tactical team to reenter the school, Escalon said.
officers should have gone in sooner, Escalon said, “That’s a tough
question. … I don’t have enough information to answer that question
received the first call about the gunman around 11:20 a.m., when his
grandmother called 911 after he shot her in the face at their home about
two minutes from the school. The gunman then fled in her pickup truck,
crashing it in a nearby ditch — prompting a 911 call from a neighbor, a
DPS spokesperson told The Washington Post.
At 1:06 p.m. Tuesday, the Uvalde Police Department posted on its Facebook page
that the shooter was in police custody. Authorities later reported that
the shooter was shot to death by a Border Patrol agent who responded to
“The bottom line
is that law enforcement was there, they did engage immediately, they
did contain him in the classroom,” McCraw said at the Wednesday press
conference. At the same press conference, Gov. Greg Abbott praised the officers at the scene and said “it could have been worse” without their intervention.
Videos have circulated on social media
showing frustrated parents confronting police officers outside the
school while the gunman was inside — and debating whether to charge into
the school themselves.
shouted, “Go in there! Go in there!” at officers outside of the school
after the attack began, but officers did not, according to a resident
who spoke with The Associated Press. At one point, federal marshals handcuffed a parent who encouraged officers to enter the premises, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Amid the confusion, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro called on the FBI on Thursday
to “use their maximum authority to investigate and provide a full
report on the timeline, the law enforcement response and how 21 Texans
Kenneth Trump, a
Cleveland-based school safety consultant, said Thursday’s press
conference left key questions unanswered — starting with why a school
door may have been left unlocked.
Trump said the
long gap between the time police arrived on the scene and the time the
gunman was taken down is concerning, but there are still lots of
unknowns, including how equipped local law enforcement was to handle a
gunman at a school.
for parents is real when they hear not only that [police] got in but
they couldn’t breach — or did not breach — that classroom,” he said.
“The question is not only did they have the adequate manpower, but did
they have the equipment to handle that and did they have prior training,
joint partnership, exercises?”
Trump said that after
the mass shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 — when two
students fatally shot 12 classmates and a teacher and injured 21 others
before killing themselves — law enforcement has moved away from the
tactics employed at the time of waiting and setting a perimeter during
an active shooter situation.
Instead, police are now trained to immediately enter and try to subdue the shooter, even if they’re alone on the scene, he said.
changed the entire landscape of enforcement tactical response to active
shooters because it became clear that these incidents unfold in
minutes,” he said. “You have mass loss of life, the longer you go on.”
Former Austin and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted Thursday,
“We don’t have all of the particulars right now, but when gunfire is
ringing out with, police are trained, expected, and required to engage,
engage, engage. This is a moral and ethical obligation.”