Law enforcement authorities in Uvalde, Texas are facing questions and criticism over how much time elapsed during the elementary school shooting Tuesday, before a U.S. Border Patrol team burst in and shot the gunman to death, the Associated Press reported.
There were conflicting reports on Thursday regarding the timeline of events, with some eyewitnesses saying police hesitated outside the building as the gunman, Salvador Ramos, was inside shooting schoolkids, while officials say the police engaged immediately. (This post has been updated with new information. See update below).
The 18-year-old’s shooting rampage lasted 40 minutes to an hour, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw initially told reporters.
A department spokesman on Thursday however clarified to say authorities were still working on an accurate timeline of the attack, and were uncertain whether that period of 40 minutes to an hour began when Ramos reached the school, or when he shot his grandmother at home earlier in the day. His grandmother was reportedly shot in the face, but survived.
“Right now we do not have an accurate or confident timeline to provide to say the gunman was in the school for this period,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom.”
Ramos managed to slaughter 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday, before getting killed by Border Patrol officers.
Outside the school building, frustrated onlookers were frantically urging police officers to charge into the school, video footage shows.
Video of Uvalde parents with cops — "y'all keep fighting with us, go fight that mfer!" pic.twitter.com/icDG2J595a
— ✨TheStarsAtNight ✨ (@Star5AtNight) May 26, 2022
“Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 26, 2022
Carranza had watched as Ramos crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a funeral home, who ran away uninjured.
Officials say Ramos “encountered” a school district security officer outside the school, though they were unable to say with any certainty whether the men exchanged gunfire.
After running inside, the gunman reportedly fired on two Uvalde police officers who were arriving outside the building, injuring both of them.
Then Ramos charged into a classroom and began to kill.
He “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.”
Everyone who was killed was in the same classroom, he said.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz stressed that his tactical officers did not hesitate when they arrived at the school, saying they moved quickly to enter the building in a stack formation.
“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.
But a law enforcement official said that once in the building, the Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.
A fourth grader who survived the shooting spoke with Kens5 about what he witnessed inside that classroom.
“He shot the next person’s door. We have a door in the middle. He opened it. He came in and he crouched a little bit and he said, he said, ‘It’s time to die,'” the boy recalled.
“When I heard the shooting through the door, I told my friend to hide under something so he won’t find us,” he said. “I was hiding hard. And I was telling my friend to not talk because he is going to hear us.”
The boy and four others hid under a table that had a tablecloth over it, which may have shielded them from the shooter’s view and saved their lives. The boy shared heartbreaking details about what happened in that room.
“When the cops came, the cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came in and shot her,” the boy said. “The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting.”
He said that once the shooting stopped, he came out from under the table.
“I just opened the curtain. And I just put my hand out,” he said. “I got out with my friend. I knew it was police. I saw the armor and the shield.”
A half an hour before he began his rampage, Ramos wrote three Facebook posts:
1. “I’m going to shoot my grandmother.”
2. “I shot my grandmother.”
3. “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
The unemployed high school drop out legally bought two AR style rifles, ammo, and magazines after his 18th birthday, according to authorities.
The motive for the massacre remains under investigation.
“We don’t see a motive or catalyst right now,” said McCraw.
The Uvalde ISD Police chief Pete Arredondo made the call to prevent officers from breaching the classroom door and killing Ramos, thinking that that they were no longer dealing with an active shooter situation, but “a barricaded subject.”
Nearly 20 officers were in the building for more than 45 minutes before Border Patrol agents used a master key to open the door.
The police are now saying it wasn’t the right decision to leave a gunman for 75 minutes with kids inside the classrooms and not breach the door. Ya think? Just complete and total incompetence. pic.twitter.com/mCInOE8ZU4
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 27, 2022
🚨 BREAKING: “Nearly 20 officers were in a hallway outside of the classrooms at a Texas elementary school for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open a door and confront a gunman, authorities said Friday.”https://t.co/LQKEZY6bOd
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) May 27, 2022
A mother who said she drove 40 miles to Robb Elementary School when she heard about the shooting. She was briefly detained for arguing with police about going in to save the kids. Federal marshals put her in handcuffs
“The police were doing nothing,” said Angeli Rose Gomez, who after learning about the shooting drove 40 miles to Robb Elementary School, where her children are in second and third grade. “They were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”
State officials have said that local police were at the school within a few minutes of the gunman entering the building and exchanged gunfire with him, but they were unable to gain access to a classroom where he barricaded himself, firing on officers.
Ms. Gomez convinced local Uvalde police officers whom she knew to persuade the marshals to set her free. Around her, the scene was frantic. She said she saw a father tackled and thrown to the ground by police and a third pepper-sprayed. Once freed from her cuffs, Ms. Gomez made her distance from the crowd, jumped the school fence, and ran inside to grab her two children. She sprinted out of the school with them.
Ms. Gomez, a farm supervisor, said that she was one of numerous parents who began encouraging—first politely, and then with more urgency—police and other law enforcement to enter the school. After a few minutes, she said, federal marshals approached her and put her in handcuffs, telling her she was being arrested for intervening in an active investigation.
Some Uvalde police officers reportedly went into the school to rescue their own kids.
Here’s a Texas DPS Lieutenant telling a local station that some officers breached the school to get their own children BEFORE the shooter was taken down. pic.twitter.com/BrvS4sCqp6
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) May 26, 2022
An 11-year-old in the classroom reportedly smeared blood on herself and went into “survival mode” during the Uvalde mass shooting on Tuesday. Her father told Fox News Digital that the girl is still shaken after having watched her teacher and classmates gunned down.
Miah Cerrillo, 11, survived the shooting but watched her friends and teacher being killed, according to her aunt, Blanca Rivera, who spoke with Click 2 Houston.
Cerrillo smeared blood on her face and went into survival mode after seeing her classmates shot to death, according to the report.
“My sister-in-law said is that [Miah] saw her friend full of blood, and she got blood and put it on herself,” Rivera said. “My brother said she had bullet fragments in her back.”