Anger is growing across the nation after more details emerge about the law enforcement response to the Texas School shooting. At the center of the outrage is a statement from a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) official who says officers did not respond because they “could have been shot.”
Authorities have released a timeline of events at Robb Elementary School when high school student Salvador Ramos crashed his vehicle then entered the school at around 11.40 a.m. Media outlets have pointed out conflicting timelines given by authorities and the news has the victim’s families speaking.
But before the gunman even entered the Uvalde elementary school, he stood outside for 12 minutes allegedly firing a weapon before entering unchallenged, police said on Thursday.
That contradicted earlier statements which said the attacker had been confronted and shot at by an officer.
Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers before he was shot dead 90 minutes after he arrived, police say.
That delay, combined with video footage showing frustrated parents (video below) being tackled and handcuffed by police while the gunman was still inside the school, has led to growing public anger and scrutiny of the early response.
One fact is that it took until almost 1 p.m. for the slaughter to end when Ramos was killed by police. That’s 90 minutes after police were alerted.
Witnesses say, backed by social media videos made at the scene, police were reluctant to confront the killer. The videos show desperate family members pleading for officers to immediately storm the school as gunfire continues inside.
One mother told the Wall Street Journal that she was briefly handcuffed and accused of impeding a police investigation, after demanding – along with other parents – that officers enter the school. Angeli Rose Gomez said she saw one father thrown to the ground by an officer, another pepper-sprayed and a third who was tasered.
“The police were doing nothing,” said Ms Gomez, who was eventually released. She said she jumped over the school fence and ran inside to rescue her two children. “They [the police] were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”
“They say they rushed in,” Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed in the attack, told the Associated Press. “We didn’t see that.”
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs’. Their response was, ‘We can’t do our jobs because you guys are interfering.'”
Texas DPS spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez said the first priority for officers in an active shooter situation is to stop the killing and preserve life.
“But also one thing that, of course, the American people need to understand, is that officers are making entry into this building. They do not know where the gunman is,” Oliverez told CNN.
“They are hearing gunshots. They are receiving gunshots. At that point, if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed, and at that point, that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.”
Oliverez said their response meant the shooter was contained in the classroom and unable to get to “any other portions of the school to commit any other killings.”
Authorities on Thursday largely ignored questions during a contentious briefing about why officers had not been able to stop the shooter sooner.
Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters he had “taken all those questions into consideration” and would offer updates later.
One point Escalon clarified based on the information he had at the time was that there were no armed officers at the school at the time Ramos entered “unobstructed.”
“No, no, there was not an officer readily available, armed. No,” the Texas DPS official said in response to a reporter’s question on Thursday afternoon.
This contradicted earlier information from authorities.
The apparent delay in entering the building deviates from guidance that became standard police practice after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which states that the first officers on the scene should do whatever they can to stop an attack without waiting for backup.
–Wire services and Metro Voice