Federal agents who went to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday to confront a gunman who killed 19 children were told by local police to wait and not enter the school — and then decided after about half an hour to ignore that initial guidance and find the shooter, say two senior federal law enforcement officials.
According to the officials, agents from BORTAC, the Customs and Border Protection tactical unit, and ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrived on the scene between noon and 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday. Local law enforcement asked them to wait, and then instructed HSI agents to help pull children out of the windows.
The BORTAC team, armed with tactical gear, at first did not move toward the gunman. After approximately 30 minutes passed, however, the federal agents opted of their own volition to lead the “stack” of officers inside the school and take down the shooter.
Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday that Peter Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, had stopped at least 19 officers from breaking into the school as the gunman opened fire for at least an hour.
Arredondo believed that the shooter had barricaded himself and that the children were not under an active threat, said McCraw at a news conference.
“From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision. It was a wrong decision. Period. There was no excuse for that,” McCraw said. “There were plenty of officers to do what needed to be done, with one exception, is that the incident commander inside believed he needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that time.”
According to McCraw, Arredondo believed there was no active threat, so instead of sending officers in, he spent time finding keys that would let him into the school. During this time, however, Ramos had unencumbered access to carry out the attack. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed.
Arredondo was not present among law enforcement officials standing with McCraw on Friday, and McCraw did not explicitly name him.
Arredondo did not immediately return a request for comment by NBC News.
Two teachers and 19 students, many of them fourth graders, were killed inside a single classroom during Tuesday’s massacre.
McCraw said Friday that two students inside the school dialed 911 multiple times during the shooting and begged authorities for help. The calls began at 12:03 p.m. and lasted through most of the hour.
At 12:47 p.m., one of the students called a 911 operator and said “please send the police now.”
Both students survived, McCraw said.