Multiple police officers armed with rifles and a ballistic shield were inside Robb Elementary School 19 minutes after the gunman, according to new details — yet law enforcement still waited roughly an hour to breach the classroom where the shooter carried out his deadly rampage last month.
The new details were included in reports by Austin American Statesman and KVUE on Monday and mark the latest revelations into the botched police response to the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Surveillance footage from inside the school showed the armed officers standing inside a hallway at 11:52 a.m. after gunman Salvador Ramos broke into the school at 11:33 a.m. through an exterior door that had failed to automatically lock.
The newly reported account contradicts earlier reports that Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was in charge of the police response, was waiting for tactical gear and a protective shield to move on the gunman.
“There were 19 officers in there,” Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a media briefing days after the mass shooting. “In fact, there were plenty of officers to do whatever needed to be done, with one exception — the incident commander inside believed they needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that point.”
School security footage as well as police body camera video shows the officers had enough firepower and protection to take out the gunman much sooner than they did, according to the Statesman.
The first officer with a ballistic shield who entered the school questions why they weren’t attempting to enter the classroom. “If there’s kids in there, we need to go in there,” the officer says in body cam footage.
At 12:03 p.m., an officer with another shield arrives, followed by a third two minutes later, according to KVUE.
After attempting to talk with Ramos, Arredondo tells SWAT officers who arrived that they should breach the classroom door as soon as they were ready at 12:46 p.m. They reported finally busted into the room four minutes later and shot and killed Ramos.
Based on footage from the incident and Arredondo’s own testimony, it’s believed some of the delay was based on his attempts to find keys to unlock the classroom door — thought it was unclear if it was locked. Police did not even check or try to open it, despite having access to a Halligan tool which could have broken the lock, according to the San Antonio Express News.
Arredondo tried dozens of keys, but told officers to wait for a tactical team when none worked, the report said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating officers’ response to the mass shooting.