Investigators said on Friday the scene commander of the Uvalde school shooting chose to wait for further help instead of continuing to attempt to enter a classroom where students had been shot and where the shooter had barricaded himself behind a locked door.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called it a ‘bad decision’, added there was ‘no excuse’ and said officers should have kept trying to engage the gunner long before the arrival of units with more equipment and manpower.
After three days of inconsistent chronological accounts from Texas DPS officials, McCraw acknowledged that it had been more than an hour and 15 minutes from the time the first officers entered the building of the school and the one where they entered the classroom and killed the shooter, after finally getting the keys to the room. of a school janitor.
At a news conference on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) said information police gave him earlier in the week was partly inaccurate. Abbott had previously praised the officers for their quick response and said they had saved lives.
On Friday afternoon, the governor said he had been misled and was livid.
“I’m absolutely livid about this and here’s what I expect, for the law enforcement people who are doing the investigations, which are the Texas Rangers and the FBI, to get to the bottom of every fact with a absolute certainty,” Abbott said.
McCraw said Friday the shooter entered the school building at 11:33 a.m. Tuesday through a backdoor that a teacher left open.
Within two minutes, three officers entered through the same door and four more entered moments later as the first three attempted to reach the classroom.
“The first three officers to arrive went straight to the door and received scratch wounds at the time from the suspect as the door was closed,” McCraw said.
Over the next 30 minutes, he said more officers entered the building, 19 in all, but they still did not enter the classroom.
“In fact, there were plenty of officers to do everything that needed to be done. With one exception, the incident commander inside believed he needed more equipment and more officers to make a tactical breach at the time,” McCraw said.
Late Friday, two senior federal law enforcement officials told NBC News that members of the US Border Patrol’s elite tactical team arrived at the school between noon and 12:15 p.m., but they were first instructed by local law enforcement to wait and not go after the shooter. After about 30 minutes, officials said Border Patrol agents went against instructions given to them and led a “pile” of officers into the classroom.
A stack maneuver typically involves officers lined up behind a ballistic shield to provide cover and direct additional firepower at the gunner.
As officers waited to enter the room, McCraw said police began receiving 911 calls from two people trapped in the classroom.
“At 12:16 p.m. (one person) called back and said there were eight to nine students alive,” McCraw said.
Videos taken outside the building show parents pleading with the police during this time, even offering to storm the building themselves.
“Other parents are already going up front to shoot him,” one parent shouted.
Finally at 12:50 p.m., more than an hour and 15 minutes after the shooting began, McCraw said police and members of the Border Patrol Tactical Team entered the room and killed the suspect.
“They broke down the door using keys they were able to get from the janitor,” McCraw said.
McCraw said the scene commander, whom he identified as the local school district police chief, should not have waited.
“Of course it wasn’t the right decision, it was the wrong decision. There was no excuse for it. But again, I wasn’t there. But I’m telling you right after what we know. We think there should have been an entry as soon as possible,” McCraw said.
McCraw said the commander believed the shooter no longer posed a risk to children barricaded behind the door.
He said it was unclear whether 9-1-1 operators told officers the caller victims were still alive.
NBC5 made several attempts to reach CISD Uvalde’s police chief on Friday, but the messages were not immediately returned. Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Licensing (TCOLE) records obtained by NBC5 Investigates indicated that the chief is a 26-year law enforcement veteran and last completed the training course of active shooter required by the state for police officers just five months ago, in December.
The TCLOE Active Shooter Training Program reminds officers, “Time is the number one enemy in active shooter response.”
He says officers should keep trying to get to the shooter “…even if it means an officer is acting alone”.
“You don’t need to have a leader on the stage. Each officer lines up, stacks up… and keeps firing until the subject is dead. Period,” McCraw said.
For the families of the victims, the delays are difficult to apprehend.
“My brother was ready to lay down his life for his daughter and they keep pushing and pushing him away. And he said to them, ‘Because why are there only 22 guys just standing there doing nothing? We are all going there,” said Jose Cazares, the uncle of one of the deceased victims.