The massacre of 19 children and two teachers in a Texas elementary school this week started and continued amid numerous instances of mistakes, misjudgments or misfortune, according to newly released details.
A Texas official on Friday laid out the clearest picture yet of what authorities believe happened before, during and immediately after the deadly rampage. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, spoke to a crowd of reporters frustrated by the changing narrative of what happened Tuesday morning.
I have detailed numerous points where the shooter could have been stopped — but the massacre continued for various reasons.
“Ultimately, this is tragic,” McCraw said. “What do you tell the 19, the families of 19 kids, or the families of two teachers?”
Officer ‘drove right by the suspect’
There was not a school resource officer at the school when the shooter arrived Tuesday, McCraw said.
The first officer on scene heard about a 911 call of a man with a gun and “drove immediately” to the school, McCraw said. The officer “sped to what he thought was the man with the gun” near the back of the school, but it “turned out to be a teacher,” McCraw said.
“In doing so, he drove right by the suspect,” who was hunkered down behind a vehicle, where he began shooting at the school, McCraw said. The gunman initially fired shots starting at 11:31 into at least three classrooms as he walked along the outside of the building, McCraw said.
Door left open, allowing gunman to enter school
The gunman entered the school through an open door two minutes later, at 11:33, McCraw said. At that time, the gunman began shooting in one of two classrooms and shot more than 100 rounds, McCraw said.
Two minutes later, three Uvalde Police Department officers entered the same door the gunman entered, McCraw said. They were “later followed” by three more police officers and a county deputy sheriff, McCraw said.
Officers close enough to suspect to be wounded, but rampage continues
Two of the initial three officers went directly to the door and “received grazing wounds from the suspect while the door was closed.” McCraw did not say if the officers fired back.
At 11:37, another 16 rounds were fired, he said. At 11:51, a police sergeant and US Border Patrol agents started to arrive, he said.
At 12:03, officers continued to arrive, and there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway at that time, he said. “There was 19 officers in there. In fact, there was plenty of officers to do whatever needed to be done,” he later added.
That same minute, 12:03, is when the first 911 call came in, McCraw said. The call came from someone in room 112 and lasted over a minute. The person called back at 12:10 and said “multiple dead,” McCraw recounted. The caller rang again at 12:13 and 12:16 and said there were “eight to nine students alive.”
Around that same time, members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) arrived, along with shields at 12:21, McCraw said. That’s when the gunman fired again and was believed to be at the door, he said.
No immediate effort to break through locked door
The doors to the two adjoining classrooms were locked at that time, McCraw said, and no efforts were made to open the doors.
“The on-scene commander at the time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject,” McCraw said.
He later added: “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.”
In retrospect, it is clear “there were children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was, in fact, an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject,” McCraw said.
“It was the wrong decision. Period. There’s no excuse for that,” McCraw said. I added: “There should have been an entry.”
911 calls from classroom didn’t change police response
Officers “moved down the hallway” at 12:21, McCraw said. But they didn’t breach the door until 12:50, McCraw said.
In the meantime, several more 911 calls came in from people inside the two classrooms.
At 12:19, someone in the adjoining room, room 111, called. “She hung up when another student told her to hang up,” McCraw said. At 12:21, “you could hear, over the 911 call, that three shots were fired,” he said.
At 12:36, a “student, child” called 911 said “he shot the door,” McCraw recounted. At 12:43 and 12:47, “she asked 911 to please send the police now.”
At 12:46, she said she could “hear the police next door,” McCraw said. At 12:50, shots were fired and could be heard on the call, he said. At 12:51, “it is very loud and sounds like officers are moving children out of the room,” McCraw said.
Officers waited to retrieve keys
The officers breached the door at 12:50 “using keys that they were able to get from the janitor because both doors were locked.”
That’s when officers killed the gunman, McCraw said.
There were 35 spent law enforcement cartridges in the school, McCraw later said. Eight were in the hallway, and 27 were in the classroom where the gunman was killed.
In the midst of the incident, neighbors and parents screamed and pleaded with officers to go into the school and save the children, the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism