Multiple police officers armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield stood and waited in a school hallway for nearly an hour while a gunman carried out aon May 24, according to Monday news reports that mark the latest embarrassing revelation about the failure of law enforcement to thwart the attack.
The officers with heavier firepower and tactical equipment were there within 19 minutes of the gunman arriving on campus – earlier than previously known, according to documents reviewed by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV.
The outlets’ reports, which did not indicate the source of the documents, nevertheless intensified the anguish and questions over why police didn’t act sooner to stop the May 24 slaughter in the Robb Elementary School classroom.
The information is to be presented to a public Texas Senate hearing in Austin on Tuesday. Investigators say the latest information indicates officers had more than enough firepower and protection to take down the gunman long before they finally did, the outlets reported.
Separately, CNN, citing a law enforcement source close to the investigation, reported that eleven officers — including Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo — were inside Robb Elementary School within three minutes of when the gunman got in on May 24.
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 11:33 a.m., walking to a classroom and immediately spraying gunfire before barricading himself. Video showed 11 officers entering the school three minutes later, the outlets reported.
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 11:44 a.m., body camera video recorded the sound of more gunshots. At 11:52 a.m., 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 12:03 p.m., and another came with a shield two minutes later. About 30 minutes before officers finally breached the classroom door at 12:50 p.m., Arredondo is heard wondering aloud if the gunman could be shot through a window. Only at 12:46 p.m. did Arredondo tell 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. Questioned about the law enforcement response began days after the massacre. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on May 27 thatwhen 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 heand assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. Arredondo has declined repeated requests for comment to The Associated Press.
CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV reports that the Uvalde school board heard calls for Arredondo to be fired at an emotional meeting Monday night.
“We were failed by Pete Arredondo,” said Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia. “He failed our kids, teachers, parents, and city, and by keeping him on your staff, y’all are continuing to fail us.”
The station says some 200 people attended, including families of those who lost their lives.
Speakers insisted that anyone who fell short in performing his or her duties be held accountable.