Authorities say the 18-year-old gunman who killed 21 people at a Texas elementary school was in the building for more than an hour before he was killed by law enforcement officers.
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The shooter who killed 21 people at a Texas elementary school was in the building for more than an hour before being killed by law enforcement officers, authorities say.
It was 11:28 a.m. when Salvador Ramos’ Ford pickup slammed into a ditch behind the low-slung Texas schoolhouse and the driver jumped out with an AR-15-style rifle.
Twelve minutes later, authorities said, Ramos, 18, was in the halls of Robb Elementary School. Soon he entered a fourth grade class. And there he killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in a still unexplained bout of violence.
At 12:58 p.m., law enforcement radio conversations said Ramos 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, has fueled growing public anger and scrutiny over the response of law enforcement. at Tuesday’s rampage.
“They say they rushed,” said Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who ran towards the school as the massacre unfolded. “We haven’t seen that.”
Authorities largely ignored questions on Thursday about why officers had been unable to arrest the shooter earlier, Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, telling reporters that he had “considered all of these matters” and would offer updates. later.
The press conference, called by Texas security officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, provided previously unknown information. But by the time it ended, it had added to troubling questions surrounding the attack, including how long it took police to reach the scene and confront the shooter, and the apparent inability to lock down a school door he entered.
After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer didn’t confront Ramos outside the building.
Instead, they sketched out a remarkable timeline for unexplained law enforcement delays.
After crashing his truck, Ramos shot two people exiting a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then entered the school “unobstructed” through an apparently unlocked door around 11:40 a.m.
But the first police did not arrive on 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 pushed back by shots from Ramos and took cover, Escalon said.
The crisis ended after a group of Border Patrol tactical officers entered the school about an hour later at 12:45 p.m., the Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson said. Travis Considine. They engaged in a shootout with the shooter, who was locked in the fourth grade classroom. Moments before 1 p.m., he was dead.
Escalon said during this time officers called in reinforcements, negotiators and tactical teams, while evacuating students and teachers.
Ken Trump, president of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said the length of the delay raises questions.
“Based on best practice, it’s very difficult to understand why there were delays, especially when you go into reports of 40 minutes and more to neutralize this shooter,” he said.
Many other details of the case and the response remained unclear. The motive for the massacre – the deadliest school shooting in the country since Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago – remains under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no criminal history or of known mental health.
During the siege, frustrated onlookers urged police to charge into the school, witnesses said.
” Go for it ! Go for it ! women yelled at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who observed 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.”
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that his agency’s tactical officers who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved quickly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind a shield-wielding officer.
“What we wanted to make sure was to act fast, to act fast, and that’s exactly what these officers did,” Ortiz told Fox News.
But a law enforcement official said once inside the building, officers had difficulty opening the door to the classroom and had to ask a member of staff to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN that investigators are trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.
Cazares said when he arrived he saw two officers outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before officers arrived with shields, equipped to confront the shooter, he said.
As more parents flocked to the school, he and others urged police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four shots before he and the others were ordered back to a parking lot.
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all have to go. You all have to do your job. Their response was, “We can’t do our job because you’re interfering,” Cazares said.
As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the incident. case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Investigators concluded that the school officer was not positioned between the school and Ramos, leaving him unable to confront the shooter before he entered the building, the official said. law enforcement.
Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, warned that it is difficult to get the facts right soon after a shooting.
“The information we have a few weeks after an event is usually very different from what we get the first day or two. And even that is usually pretty inaccurate,” Dorn said. For catastrophic events, “you usually have eight to 12 months before I really have a decent image.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
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