Enough armed police officers to stop the shooting at Robb Elementary School arrived within three minutes of when the gunman began firing, a top law enforcement official in Texas said Tuesday.
Police officers in Uvalde, Texas stood in a hallway of the school holding rifles for 77 minutes, waiting for additional manpower and other tactical gear before they finally stormed the classroom and killed the gunman, who had already killed 19 students and two teachers.
None of the officers tried to enter the two classrooms in which the gunman killed 21 people, despite earlier claims that they had to wait so long to enter because the doors were locked and they were waiting on keys.
‘I don’t care if you have on flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, you go in,’ Director of Texas Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw said Tuesday during a Senate committee hearing.
The newly released surveillance footage was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV and shared before the hearing.
‘The officers had weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none,’ McCraw said.
McCraw called the police response to the shooting, one of the deadliest in recent US history, an ‘abject failure’ and said it was ‘antithetical’ to the lessons learned since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.
Not only was the door to enter the classroom unlocked, but the lock was broken, McCraw said, noting that the teacher had requested the door be fixed before the shooting.
‘I have great reasons to believe it was never secured,’ McCraw said of the door. ‘How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?’
The delayed response by law enforcement officials has been the subject of both state and federal investigations, and the newly released information seems to indicate that officers could have taken down the gunman sooner than they did.
The gunman, Salvador Ramos, entered the school at 11.33am local time. Within three minutes, 11 police officers had arrived at the school. An officer with a ballistic shield was at the school by 11.52am.
Police finally entered the classroom at 12.50 and shot the gunman dead.
McCraw specifically criticized the on-scene commander for ordering officers to wait to confront the shooter rather than storming the classroom immediately.
That commander, the school district’s police chief Peter Arredondo, had also initially thought that the situation had changed from an active shooter to a barricaded subject. He wrongly believed the situation was not an active threat.
Arredondo has also repeatedly said that he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the police response.
Not only did he have the wrong information, but he did not have a radio with him, which furthered the miscommunication across officials throughout the incident. According to officials, none of the handheld radios used by local law enforcement officials actually worked inside the school.
Parents of shooting victims and members of the Uvalde community have also been criticizing Arredondo’s leadership, many calling him ‘incompetent.’ At a school board meeting Monday, many community members called for his resignation.
‘Having Pete still employed, knowing he is incapable of decision-making that saves lives is terrifying,’ said Brett Cross, the uncle of student Uziyah Garcia, who died in the shooting. ‘Innocence doesn’t hide, innocence doesn’t change its story, but innocence did die on May 24.’
A number of attendees at Monday’s meeting even held signs reading: ‘Fire Pete Arredondo’ outside the school’s auditorium.
Arredondo publicly defended the police response to the shooting earlier this month, telling the : ‘Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children.’
More details of the May 24 shooting are expected to be discussed in the Texas Senate on Tuesday.