Days after Texas’ top
officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, praised how police handled a
shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at a Uvalde
elementary school, the state’s top law enforcement official admitted
Friday that officers made key errors when responding to the shooting.
did not act sooner to stop the 18-year-old gunman rampaging at Robb
Elementary School because a supervising officer at the scene wanted to
wait for backup and equipment, said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas
Department of Public Safety. Meanwhile, students were still trapped
inside with the gunman, repeatedly calling 911 for help.
By the time a
specialized team of federal officers arrived and entered the school —
they had to get keys from a janitor to open locked classroom doors —
more than an hour had passed since the shooter had arrived at the
school, McCraw said.
That was a mistake, McCraw said at a Friday press conference.
benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the
right decision,” McCraw said. “It was the wrong decision, period.
There's no excuse for that.”
“When it comes to an active shooter, you don't have to wait on tactical gear, plain and simple,” he said.
Later in the
day, Abbott said he was "misled" about the police response to the
shooting. He had praised officers' handling of the crisis in a Wednesday
press conference, saying, "The reason it was not worse is because law
enforcement officials did what they do."
Friday afternoon, Abbott said those remarks were a "recitation" of what he had been told in a law enforcementbriefing.
"I am livid
about what happened," Abbott said, adding that the Texas Rangers and the
FBI are investigating the shooting response and will "get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty."
revealed Friday that the gunman entered the school through a back door
that minutes before had been propped open by a teacher. He said a police
officer employed by the school district responded to an initial 911
call about an armed man near the school — but drove past the gunman, who
was “hunkered down” behind a vehicle, and mistook a teacher for the
harrowing 911 calls by teachers and students trapped inside with the
gunman, including one at 12:47 p.m. — more than an hour after the
shooter entered the school — when a student begged the 911 operator:
“Please send the police now.”
It was the most
detailed accounting yet of the roughly 90 minutes that forever changed
Uvalde, a tight-knit community of roughly 15,000 residents a short drive
from the Texas-Mexico border. From the moment the gunman shot and
wounded his grandmother until the moment a U.S. Border Patrol agent
ended the carnage with a gunshot, a series of decisions large and small
contributed to what became the nation’s second-most-lethal shooting in a
K-12 school after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in
Law enforcement officials have faced increasing questions
in the days since the shooting about whether officers on the scene
could have acted more quickly to stop the gunman. Videos circulated on
social media show desperate parents begging officers to enter the
school, and parents have reported being handcuffed and Tased by law
enforcement officers when they implored officers to act or tried to
retrieve their children.
State Rep. Vikki
Goodwin, D-Austin, told the Tribune that DPS troopers restrained two
parents attempting to reach their children shortly after arriving on the
scene. Goodwin said she reached out to the agency after seeing a video
of the incident circulating on social media and was told by DPS staff
that troopers acted at the instruction of the local commander to keep
“the public as safe as possible.”
At the same time, DPS officials — who are leading the shooting investigation along with local police — have often given conflicting details about how the police response played out.
For example, DPS
officials initially said the 18-year-old gunman encountered a school
district police officer when he arrived on school grounds — and gave
conflicting accounts about whether the officer fired at the gunman.
On Thursday, the
agency reversed course, saying that no campus police officer confronted
the gunman when he stepped onto the premises.
McCraw said the
officer “was not on campus” when the shooter arrived but did not explain
why or where the officer was, saying DPS will answer that question
“down the road.”
'10 more days'
In the months
before the gunman struck Robb Elementary, Uvalde school district police
said they had been preparing for such a shooting.
In a Facebook post March 22,
the school district’s police department said it had hosted an “active
shooter training” the previous day — and had already hosted “several”
others — with the goal to “train every Uvalde area law enforcement
officer so that we can prepare as best as possible for any situation
that may arise.”
By then, the gunman was already trying to buy a gun.
He asked his sister in September — months before he turned 18, when he could legally buy a firearm in Texas — to help him buy a gun, McCraw said. The sister flatly refused.
On March 1, he chatted with a handful of other people on Instagram about wanting to buy a gun.
Two weeks later, he made an Instagram post that read “10 more days.”
According to McCraw, someone replied, “Are you gonna shoot up a school or something?”
“No. Stop asking dumb questions,” he said. “You’ll see.”
investigators believe the gunman was "not motivated by a particular
ideology," Rep. Joaquin Castro said Friday after meeting with the
agency, and "was not on the FBI’s radar" before the shooting. Castro had
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
The gunman legally
purchased two AR platform rifles from a federally licensed gun store
earlier this month, the first one a day after his 18th birthday and
exactly a week before he approached the elementary school with both
rifles and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition.
received the first call around 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, when the gunman’s
grandmother called 911 to report that he had shot her in the face at her
home, located about two minutes from Robb Elementary.
The shooter fled
in his grandmother’s pickup truck and crashed it in a ditch near the
school at 11:28 a.m. He was carrying 58 magazines and 1,657 rounds of
ammunition, McCraw said.
McCraw said the
gunman fired at two passersby on the street, then went to the school,
where he fired shots at the building from outside before entering the
building at 11:33 a.m. through a back door that a teacher had left
Once inside, the
gunman entered a pair of connected classrooms — rooms 111 and 112 —
where he killed 19 children and two teachers and wounded 17 others.
McCraw said the gunman fired more than 100 rounds at that point. He
fired at least 186 rounds from the time he crashed his vehicle outside
the school to the moment he was killed, McCraw said.
officers quickly arrived at the school and entered two minutes after the
gunman at 11:35 a.m., McCraw said, but fell back after two officers
were shot and wounded by the gunman. Officers tried to negotiate with
the shooter, officials have said, but the man “did not respond.”
McCraw said the
commander on site at that point treated the situation as a “barricaded
suspect” case and thought children were no longer at risk, which McCraw
also called a mistake. McCraw said at one point there were as many as 19
officers in the hallway outside the classrooms where the gunman had
locked himself inside with students and teachers.
“There was plenty of officers [at the scene] to do what needed to be done,” McCraw said.
Throughout the hour it
took for law enforcement to reach and kill the gunman, 911 calls came
from inside the classrooms. McCraw said the first came at 12:03 p.m.,
followed by another from a student inside room 112 at 12:16 p.m. The
student told the 911 operator there were eight or nine students still
alive in the classrooms, McCraw said.
McCraw, who had
praised the police response the day after the shooting, struck a less
defensive posture Friday. During a contentious press conference, he
often looked visibly unsettled and choked up near the end.
“We're not here to defend what happened,” McCraw said.