A Texas official said Friday that local police made the “wrong decision” by waiting nearly an hour to breach the elementary school classroom where a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers.
Nearly 20 officers stood outside the classroom during the Tuesday attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The on-scene commander believed at the time that 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos had barricaded himself and that the children were no longer at risk, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a Friday news conference.
Meanwhile, during the 48 minutes it took for agents to confront the gunman, teachers and children in the classroom were still alive and repeatedly calling 911 begging for help.
“From the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision,” McCraw said of the commander’s decision to wait for tactical teams to arrive to breach the door. “It was the wrong decision, period.”
Despite sporadic gunshots during the 48-minute period, McCraw said the onsite commander thought the attack had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject situation, which is why police waited for tactical teams to arrive to confront Ramos. U.S. Border Patrol agents eventually used a master key to enter the classroom and shot and killed the shooter.
“He was convinced at that time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize with the proper equipment to go in,” McCraw said.
As questions have mounted over inconsistencies in the police response to mass shooting in recent days, the Friday press conference has fueled questions on whether local authorities mishandled the situation. Conflicting information over the timeline of the attack from law enforcement has stoked public outrage and demands for clearer answers.
Just a day after the shooting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials at a news conference commended law enforcement for their efforts in responding to the attack. But in the days since, authorities have revealed troubling information over how police handled the situation — such as the 15 to 20 minutes it took for officers with shields to arrive at the school, as well as the time it took to breach the classroom.
Asked on Friday whether the onsite commander owed the families of the victims an apology for not acting more quickly, McCraw replied: “If I thought it would help, I would apologize.”