Texas school shooting: heavily armed police with ballistic shields were there ‘within 19 minutes’
Timeline published in local news reports suggests police in Uvalde had ability to confront gunman far earlier during May attack in which 21 died
Multiple police officers armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield were at the site of the Robb elementary school mass shooting in Texas within 19 minutes, earlier than previously known, according to a timeline in documents reviewed by local media.
The information revealed by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV is to be presented to a public Texas Senate hearing in Austin on Tuesday.
Concerns have been raised about how police handled the 24 May shooting in Uvalde in which 19 children and two teachers were shot dead by a gunman. Officers did not confront the gunman for more than an hour, even as anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go in.
According to the outlets, which did not indicate the source of the documents, investigators said the latest information indicated officers had more than enough firepower and protection to take down the gunman long before they finally did.
The timeline the American-Statesman and KVUE reported from the documents included footage from inside the school that showed the 18-year-old gunman casually entering a rear door at 11.33am, walking to a classroom and immediately spraying gunfire before barricading himself. Video showed 11 officers entering the school three minutes later, the outlets reported.
School district police Chief Pete Arredondo called the Uvalde police department landline and reported that their suspect had “shot a lot” with an AR-15-style rifle and outgunned the officers at the school, who he said were armed only with pistols, the outlets reported.
Four minutes later, at 11.44am, body camera video recorded the sound of more gunshots. At 11.52am, the first ballistic shield arrived as officers grew impatient to act. Arredondo struggled to find a key to the classroom door even though no one is believed to have tried opening the door, the outlets reported.
Another officer with a ballistic shield arrived at 12.03pm, and another came with a shield two minutes later. About 30 minutes before officers finally breached the classroom door, Arredondo is heard wondering aloud if the gunman could be shot through a window. At 12.46pm, Arredondo told the tactical team members to breach the door when ready, the outlets reported.
In the past week, the San Antonio Express-News reported that video surveillance footage from the school did not show officers attempting to open the door leading to the classrooms where the massacre was happening. And The New York Times reported two Uvalde city police officers told a sheriff’s deputy that they passed up a fleeting chance to shoot the gunman while he was still outside the school because they feared they would hit children.
Delays in the law enforcement response have been the focus of the federal, state and local investigation of the massacre and its aftermath. Questions about the law enforcement response began days after the massacre. Col Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on 27 May that Arredondo made “the wrong decision” when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as trapped fourth graders inside two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help.
Arredondo later said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. Arredondo has declined repeated requests for comment to the Associated Press.
On 2 June, state senator Roland Gutierrez said it was a “system failure” that Arredondo received no word of the pleas for help from people inside the school because he had no two-way radio link with city police. “I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls,” Gutierrez said during a news conference.
The Uvalde school board heard from members of the public on Monday, including relatives of those killed in the attack. They took turns criticizing the police response and what they described as lax security measures at the school in general.
Lyliana Garcia, 16, is the daughter of teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the shooting, and Jose Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later.
“The knowledge of being orphaned at such a young age is inconceivable,” she told the school board. “These are the consequences my family has to suffer due to the lack of due diligence. I would like to share a quote of one of my sister’s agonizing cries. She said, ‘My mom died protecting her students, but who was protecting my mom?’”
A legislative committee looking at law enforcement response completed another day of closed-door hearings in Uvalde on Monday.
After opening statements by state Representative Dustin Burrows, who is chairing the committee investigating the shooting, the committee went into executive session, blocking the public from hearing witness testimony. Burrows did not immediately emerge from the executive session on Monday afternoon to make a statement on the day’s testimony.
Burrows said that testimony would continue on Tuesday in Austin.