Police admitted to a stunning string of failures — including driving right by the gunman — in responding to the Texas school shooting while children were being massacred inside, with the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety saying the time for making excuses about the botched response was over.
The Friday news conference came after days of confusion, inconsistencies and a muddled timeline of law enforcement’s response to the rampage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Speaking on the delay in breaching the classroom where the shooter was, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said that “from the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There’s no excuse for that.”
“There were children in that classroom that were still at risk,” he added.
McCraw revealed that the gunman entered the school through a back door he found propped open at 11:33 a.m. and began shooting in classrooms 111 and 112. At least 100 shots were fired “based on the audio evidence at that time,” he said.
Just two minutes later, at least three police officers entered the same door the gunman did. By 12:03 p.m., there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway.
However, it wasn’t until 12:50 p.m. that the classroom the gunman was shooting in was breached using keys from a janitor. That is when the gunman was fatally shot.
In a press conference late Friday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he was “livid” after he was “misled” about initial reports of police response to the shooting.
Investigators need to “get to the very seconds of exactly what happened with 100-percent accuracy and explain it to the public and most importantly to the victims who have been devastated,” the governor said.
Abbott insisted law enforcement will get to the bottom of why responding police didn’t take more aggressive action to “eliminate” the killer.
“There will be ongoing investigations that detail exactly who knew what when, who was in charge and what strategy (was used), why was it that particular strategy was employed, why were other strategies not employed?” he said.
“Bottom line would be, why did they not choose the strategy that would have been best to get in there to eliminate the killer and to rescue the children.”
Among the more stark revelations revealed earlier Friday by McCraw:
- A school resource officer was not already stationed at the school. When he arrived at the scene, he inadvertently passed the shooter, who was crouched down next to a car.
- The back door of the school the gunman entered had been propped open by a teacher earlier in the day.
- One student in room 112 called 911 at 12:03 p.m. She called back several times. At 12:16, she said there were “eight to nine students alive,” McCraw said.
- At least two children called 911 pleading for help. They survived the shooting, McCraw said.
- McCraw said the on-scene commander believed “this was a barricaded subject situation” and did not think there were “more children at risk.”
- Fifty-eight magazines were recovered. Three were on the shooter’s body, two were found in classroom 112 and six in classroom 111. Five others were found on the ground, and one was in the rifle the gunman wielded.
- The shooter asked his sister to buy him a gun in September 2021 and she refused.
- The gunman made several alarming posts on Instagram. In a group chat of four people in March, he made comments about buying a gun.
- On March 14, he posted on Instagram “10 more days.” When a user asked if he was going to shoot up a school, he said: “No. Stop asking dumb questions and you’ll see.”
McCraw was overwhelmed with reporters demanding an explanation into the time delay in breaching the classroom.
“A decision was made that this was a barricaded subject situation, there was time to retrieve the keys and wait for a tactical team with the equipment to go ahead and breach the door and take on the subject at that point,” he explained. “That was the decision, that was the thought process at that particular point in time.”
When asked how he was doing, McCraw broke down.
“Forget how I’m doing. What about the parents? And those children?” he said. “Anytime something tragic like that happens, we want to know why it happened and how we can do better next time.”
Texas law enforcement officials have been under intense scrutiny for their handling of the attack after it was revealed that it took over an hour to stop the shooter.
Officials said Thursday that responding officers waited for backup before moving in as the gunman was holed up in a classroom — a move one expert called “disgusting.”
They also revealed that the gunman was not confronted by a school police officer upon arriving and entered the building unobstructed. Police said earlier that a school resource officer had confronted the shooter before he entered the building.
The massacre is the latest in a spate of deadly shootings in which Black, Asian and Latino communities have been targeted.
The shooting Tuesday has torn at the heart of the tightknit community in Uvalde, just an hour drive northeast of the Mexican border and home to a large Latino community.
And it has once again spurred debate over gun rights in Texas, a state with some of the most vigilant Second Amendment defenders in power. On Friday, thousands of gun owners, protesters and prominent Republicans touched down in Houston for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting — just three days after the Uvalde tragedy. About 70,000 people are expected to attend the convention over three days.