Texas school shooting: Police ‘wrong’ for waiting to storm gunman as students pleaded for help

UVALDE, Texas, May 27 (Reuters) – Frenzied children called at least half a dozen times from a massacre in Texas classrooms, begging police to intervene as some 20 officers nearly killed a dozen hours in the hallway before going in and killing the gunman, authorities said Friday.

According to Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Texas, at least two children made several emergency calls from a pair of adjacent fourth-grade classrooms after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos walked in on Tuesday with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. public safety.

Ramos, who had driven from his home to Robb Elementary School after shooting and wounding his grandmother there, went on to murder 19 children and two teachers in the deadliest shooting at a US school in nearly a decade.

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“He’s in room 112,” a girl whispered on the phone at 12:03 a.m., more than 45 minutes before a tactical team led by the US Border Patrol finally stormed in and ended the siege.

The commander at the scene, the chief of the police department for the school district in Uvalde, Texas, believed at the time that Ramos had been barricaded inside and that children were no longer in immediate danger, giving police time to prepare, McCraw said.

“Of course, from the benefit of hindsight where I am now, it was not the right decision,” said McCraw. “It was the wrong decision, period.”

The announcement of local law enforcement officials’ delay in pursuing the teenage gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle came as the nation’s largest gun rights advocacy group, the National Rifle Association, opened its annual convention 275 miles away in Houston. .

Governor Gregg Abbott, a Republican and staunch gun rights advocate who addressed the meeting in a pre-recorded video, took to apparent police error in Uvalde and later told a news conference that he had been misled and “infuriated at what had happened.”

Abbott denied that recently passed gun laws in Texas, including a controversial measure that abolished licensing requirements to carry a concealed weapon, had “any relevance” to Tuesday’s bloodshed. He suggested that state lawmakers pay renewed attention to addressing mental illness.

‘SEND THE POLICE NOW’

Even as the shooting reopened the persistent, long-running national debate over easy access to military-style weapons in the United States, the latest chronology of the Uvalde school attack sparked public dismay, including among officials who reported it.

McGraw, whose voice sometimes choked with emotion, said, “We are here to report the facts, not defend what was done or the actions taken.”

Some of the mostly 9- and 10-year-old students trapped with the gunman survived the massacre, including at least two who called 911, McCraw said. He has no specific count to offer.

There were at least eight calls from classrooms to 911 between 12:03 a.m., half an hour after Ramos first entered the building, and 12:50 a.m., when Border Patrol agents and police stormed in and shot Ramos to death.

It was unclear if officers at the scene were aware of these calls while waiting, McCraw said.

A girl McCraw did not identify called at 12:16 p.m. and told police “eight to nine” students were still alive, the colonel said. Three shots were heard during a call at 12:21 p.m.

The girl who made the first call begged the operator at 12:43 pm “please send the police now” and again four minutes later.

According to McCraw, officers entered the house three minutes after that last call when the tactical team used a janitor’s key to open the locked classroom door.

Several officers had their first gunfight with Ramos shortly after he entered the school at 11:33 a.m., when two officers were shot at by bullets and took cover. There were as many as 19 officers in the hallway at 12:03 a.m., when the first 911 call was received from the classroom, McCraw said.

Videos released Thursday showed harassed parents outside the school urging police to storm the building during the attack, with some having to be stopped by police.

Standard law enforcement protocols call for police to confront an active school shooter without delay, rather than wait for backup or more firepower, a point McCraw acknowledged Friday.

Medical experts also emphasize the importance of evacuating seriously injured gunshot patients to a trauma center — what emergency room doctors call “the golden hour” — within 60 minutes, in order to save lives.

McCraw described other times when Ramos could have been thwarted. A school official, responding to calls about an armed man who crashed into a car at the funeral home across the street, drove right past Ramos as he crouched next to a vehicle on the school grounds. Police say Ramos shot at two people who were standing outside before climbing a fence on the school grounds.

The door that gave Ramos access to the building had been left open by a teacher, McCraw said, in violation of the school district’s security policy.

NRA TREATY

The attack, ten days after a shooting in Buffalo, New York that killed ten people, has sparked the long-standing national debate over gun laws.

During the NRA meeting, prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump and US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, redoubled their arguments that stricter gun laws would do little or nothing to reduce the increasing frequency of mass shootings in the US. read more

About 500 protesters carrying crosses, signs and photos of victims of the Uvalde shooting gathered outside the convention, shouting, “NRA get out.”

President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has urged Congress to approve new gun restrictions, will visit the community of 16,000 people, about 80 miles (80 km) west of San Antonio, on Sunday. read more

Investigators are still looking for a motive for the attack. Ramos, a school dropout, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brad Brooks in Uvalde, Texas; additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, and Doina Chiacu in Washington; writing by Joseph Axe; adaptation by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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