With pressure mounting to explain the delay in police response to a Texas elementary school massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers, Governor Greg Abbott has dropped plans to attend the National Rifle Assn’s annual convention. city of Uvalde on Friday to provide more information.
Investigators are interviewing witnesses and analyzing videos to assemble a timeline that explains how the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, managed to walk to the school with a long-armed rifle, enter an unlocked door and barricade himself inside a room. class for nearly an hour before being shot and killed.
Earlier this week, Abbott praised the quick response of “valiant local officials” who, he said, engaged the gunman before he entered Robb Elementary School.
“They showed incredible courage as they ran towards gunfire,” the Republican governor said at a news conference on Wednesday. “And it’s a fact that because of their quick response, coming on the scene, being able to respond to the sniper and take him out, they managed to save lives.”
In fact, the shooter wandered outside Robb Elementary for 12 minutes before entering unchallenged through an unlocked door, according to a timeline given by Texas Ranger Victor Escalon on Thursday. About 90 minutes passed from when the gunman crashed his car outside the school at 11:28 am until he was shot dead at 12:58 pm.
That delay — as a crowd of grieving parents gathered outside and begged to enter to confront the gunman — led to increased scrutiny of the police response to the deadliest school shooting in the US in nearly a decade. Some parents criticized officers for not stopping the shooter sooner, and San Antonio Area Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro on Thursday urged the FBI to investigate local police actions.
Texas authorities have repeatedly changed the timeline narrative, leaving it unexplained how the shooter had 12 minutes to enter the school after the accident, how he entered through an unlocked door, and how he entrenched himself inside at least one classroom. They also didn’t explain why local officers apparently spent an hour inside the school “negotiating” with an active shooter.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has scheduled a press conference at 11 am CDT on Friday to provide details of the ongoing investigation. Abbott will also appear in Uvalde at an afternoon press conference and provide pre-recorded video commentary for the NRA meeting.
Ramos’ shooting began shortly after 11 am on Tuesday, when he shot his grandmother in the face at her home in Uvalde. According to authorities, Ramos then posted a message on social media declaring that “I am going to shoot an elementary school” and set off at high speed in his grandmother’s truck.
At 11:28 am, Ramos slammed the truck into a ditch and jumped out of the passenger side, carrying a long-barreled rifle. He shot two people at a nearby funeral home as he walked towards Robb Elementary, climbed a fence and crossed the school parking lot.
At 11:40 a.m., he walked along the west side of the one-story brick school, fired several shots, and entered through an unlocked door. After walking down a series of short hallways, he turned left and entered an empty classroom. From there, he found an adjacent classroom full of students and opened fire, officials said.
This raised questions about security in a school district that has threat assessment teams, a threat reporting system, social media monitoring software, fences around schools and motion detectors to detect breaches on campus. According to online district records, “teachers are instructed to keep classroom doors closed and locked at all times.”
Four minutes after Ramos entered the school, officers from the Uvalde Police and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police entered. Upon hearing the shots, they tried to enter the classroom, officials said, but some were shot or grazed and went into hiding.
Sporadic gunfire erupted as police attempted “negotiations,” Escalon said.
“During the negotiations, there wasn’t much shooting other than keeping the officers away,” he said.
According to Texas law enforcement sources, the classroom door was locked and reinforced to prevent the police from breaking it down easily, and it took time to locate a key that could open it.
It was just an hour after police entered the building that a US Border Patrol tactical officer arrived from a slack position and killed Ramos.
A Texas police source told the Los Angeles Times that officers fired 15 shots when they finally entered the classroom. Radio communications indicate that officers reported the shooter to be dead at 1 pm.
Although Uvalde is a small town of 16,000, its school district has its own police department, formed a few months after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. It had six officers and a security guard. One of his newest hires, Officer Adrian Gonzalez, was an assistant commander and SWAT training commander at the Uvalde Police Department for 10 years and took training courses in advanced SWAT tactics and how to respond to active snipers and rescue hostages.
“They failed,” said Carlos Ovalle, 32, a county official who rushed to the school on Tuesday to try to save his 8-year-old daughter Makaylah, who survived. “Someone off-duty got there faster than they did.”