A Texas police officer had the Uvalde gunman in his sights but never fired a shot, believing — perhaps incorrectly — that he needed permission to fire, a new study of the mass killing revealed Wednesday.
The report from Texas State University, reviewing the law enforcement response to the deadly attack at Robb Elementary School, raised the troubling question of whether Salvador Rolando Ramos could have been stopped before he even entered the campus where he would kill 19 children and two teachers on May 24.
Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, which regularly evaluates active shooter responses, pointed to several significant errors that were made before Ramos walked through an open school door.
The most disturbing could be that a Uvalde police officer reported he was at the scene where Ramos, 18, had crashed his truck before he got out carrying a rifle.
The killer walked into the teachers' parking lot at 11:32 a.m. "and fired through windows into the westmost rooms prior to entering the building," according to the report, titled "Robb Elementary School Attack Response Assessment and Recommendations."
Before Ramos entered the school at 11:33 a.m., "a Uvalde Police Officer on scene at the crash site observed the suspect carrying a rifle outside the west hall entry."
"The officer, armed with a rifle, asked his supervisor for permission to shoot the suspect," the report continued. "However, the supervisor either did not hear or responded too late. The officer turned to get confirmation from his supervisor and when he turned back to address the suspect, he had entered the west hallway unabated."
The report cites Texas Penal Code Section 9.32, which allows officers to shoot would-be attackers if there's reasonable belief that "deadly force was immediately necessary to prevent the commission of murder," the report said.
"A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that use of deadly force was warranted," it concluded.
The police officer was about 148 yards from the school and well within the range of his weapon when he observed Ramos, the report said.
But Texas standards for rifle certification require shooting from no more than 100 yards away, so it's possible the officer didn't believe he was skilled enough to make the shot, the report said.
"If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired," the report said.
Still, the report concluded that "had the UPD officer engaged at the suspect with his rifle, he may have been able to neutralize, or at least distract, the suspect preventing him from entering the building."
A representative for the police department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary has been under intense scrutiny since the Uvalde tragedy, from the moment local officers first arrived to the long interval until federal agents broke into a classroom where Ramos was holed up and killed him.
Much of the blame has fallen on school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who has been placed on leave by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
Arredondo has kept an incredibly low profile since the shooting. He had won election to the City Council just before the massacre and has since resigned.