Anger and confusion grow over police response to Texas school shooting

Uvalde, Texas — It was 11:28 when the Ford pickup hit a ditch behind the car. Texas school and the driver got out carrying an AR-15 style rifle.

Twelve minutes later, officials say, Salvador Ramos, 18, was in the hallways of Robb Elementary School. Soon he walked into a fourth grade classroom. And then he killed 19 students and two teachers in a spasm of still inexplicable violence.

At 12:58, a police radio message said the gunman had been killed and the siege was over.

What happened in those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood near the outskirts of the small town of Uvalde, fueled growing public outrage and scrutiny over the police response to Tuesday’s riot.

“They say they ran in,” said Jacinto Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in the attack, and who ran to the school as the massacre unfolded. “We didn’t see it.”

On Thursday, officials largely ignored questions about why officers were unable to stop the shooter earlier, with Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, telling reporters he “has taken all these questions into consideration.” and would offer updates later.

The media briefing, convened by Texas security officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, provided bits of previously unknown information. But when it ended, it raised the troubling questions surrounding the attack, including the time it took police to arrive on the scene and confront the gunman, and the apparent failure to lock the door of the school he entered.

After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said a school district police officer was not inside the school when the gunman arrived and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer had not confronted the sniper outside the building.

Much more questions than answers

Instead, they outlined a timeline notable for unexplained delays on the part of law enforcement.

After crashing his truck, the gunman shot two people leaving a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then entered the school “unobstructed” through an apparently unlocked door at around 11:40 am.

But the first officers did not arrive at the scene until 12 minutes after the accident and did not enter the school to pursue the shooter until four minutes later. Inside, they were repelled by sniper fire and went into hiding, Escalon said.

A senior federal law enforcement official told CBS News that at least two of those officers were injured by this shooting.

The crisis came to an end after a group of tactical Border Patrol agents entered the school about an hour later at 12:45 pm, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said. They engaged in a shootout with the shooter, who was hiding in the fourth grade classroom. Moments before 1 pm, he was dead.

Shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
A woman stands in front of crosses bearing the names of victims of the May 24, 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas at a memorial outside the school two days later.

MARCO BELLO / REUTERS


The senior federal police official told CBS News that the gunman shot at Border Patrol agents as soon as they reached him, wounding at least one agent. The agents then retaliated and killed the shooter.

It is the policy of US Customs and Border Protection, the controlling agency for Border Patrol, to place agents on administrative leave after such incidents until CBP reviews them.

Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz did not give a deadline, but said repeatedly that the tactical officers from his agency who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved quickly to enter the building, forming a “pile” behind an agent holding a shield.

“What we wanted to make sure is act quickly, act quickly, and that’s exactly what these agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.

But a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that once in the building, agents had trouble breaking open the classroom door and had to ask a member of staff to unlock the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

People react after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde
Marisela Gamez, second from right, screams as she is held by her husband, Mario, right, and daughter, Emily, as they gather at the memorial cross of Gamez’s niece Nevaeh Bravo, who was killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary. School in Uvalde, Texas on May 26, 2022. Crosses for all victims were placed in the county courthouse.

NURI VALLBONA / REUTERS


Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN that investigators were trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.

Escalon said that at the time agents confronted the gunman, officers called for backup, negotiators and tactical teams, as they evacuated students and teachers.

Ken Trump, president of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said the length of the schedule raised questions.

“Based on best practices, it’s very difficult to understand why there was any kind of delay, particularly when you get reports of 40 minutes or more to neutralize this sniper,” he said.

Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro, who represents the area near San Antonio, sent a letter to the FBI on Thursday, asking it to investigate the police response to the shooting.

Many other details of the case and the answer remained unclear. The motive for the massacre – the country’s deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago – remained under investigation, with authorities saying the shooter had no known criminal or mental health history.

Evident parental exasperation

During the siege, frustrated bystanders urged officers to enter the school, witnesses said.

“Go there! Go there!” women shouted at police shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school earlier: “There were more of them. There was only one of him.”

Cazares said that when he arrived, he saw two police officers outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before police officers with shields, equipped to face the sniper, arrived, he said.

Memorial to Texas School Shooting Victims
Mourners visit a memorial on May 26, 2022 for victims of the mass shooting two days earlier at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


As more parents flocked to the school, he and others pressured the police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four gunshots before he and the others were sent back to a parking lot.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to get in there. You all need to do your job.’ Their response was, ‘We can’t do our job because you’re interfering,'” Cazares said.

As for the armed officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when the gunman crashed his truck, according to an officer who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Investigators concluded that the school official was not positioned between the school and the gunman, leaving him unable to confront the gunman before entering the building, the law enforcement official said.

Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, warned that it’s hard to get a clear understanding of the facts right after a shooting.

“The information we have a few weeks after an event is often quite different from what we get the first day or two. And even that is often pretty inaccurate,” Dorn said. For catastrophic events, “you usually take eight to 12 months before you really get a decent picture.”

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