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the gunman walks into Robb Elementary School unimpededmoments after spraying bullets from his semiautomatic rifle outside the school and after desperate calls to 911 from inside and outside the school.
He slows down to peek around a corner in the hallway and flips back his hair, before proceeding toward classrooms 111 and 112.
Seconds later, a boy with neatly combed hair and glasses exits the bathroom to head back to his class. As he begins to turn the corner, he notices the gunman standing by the classroom door and then unloading the first barrage.
The boy turns and runs back into the bathroom.
The gunman enters one of the classrooms. Children scream. The gunfire continues, stops, then starts again. Stops, then starts again. And again. And again.
It is almost three minutes before three officers arrive in the same hallway and rush toward the classrooms, crouching down. Then, a burst of gunfire. One officer grabs the back of his head. They quickly retreat to the end of the hallway, just below a school surveillance camera.
A 77-minute video recording captured from this vantage pointalong with body camera footage from one of the responding officers, shows in excruciating detail what happened when dozens of local, state and federal officers entered the school, heavily armed, clad in body armor, helmets and some with protective shields.
The video was obtained exclusively by The Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, and TV station KVUE. USA TODAY is publishing an edited version of the video to show how the law enforcement response unfolded.
In the video, officers walk back and forth in the hallway, some leaving the camera frame and then reappearing, others training their weapons toward the classroom, talking, making cell phone calls, sending texts or looking at floor plans. But none enter or attempt to enter the classrooms.
Even after hearing at least four additional shots from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene, they waited.
They asked for keys to one of the classrooms. (It was unlocked, investigators said later.) They brought tear gas and gas masks. They later carried a sledge hammer. And still, they waited.
MORE ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION:Video offers clearest view of police response — but will it be released?
Officers finally rushed into the classroom and killed the gunman an hour and 14 minutes after police first arrived on the scene. Nineteen fourth graders and their two teachers died in the massacre on May 24, days before the end of the school year.
The video tells in real time the brutal story of how heavily armed officers failed to immediately launch a cohesive and aggressive response to stop the shooter and save more children if possible. And it reinforces the trauma of those parents, friends and bystanders who were outside the school and pleaded with police to do somethingand for those survivors who quietly called 911 from inside the classroom to beg for help.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw has said that the person he identified as the incident commander, school district police Chief Pete Arredondotreated the situation as a barricaded subject, which calls for a slower, methodical response, not an active shooter situation, when police are charged with doing anything possible to stop a gunman, including putting their own lives on the line. That was a mistake, McCraw has said. Officers should have confronted the gunman as soon as they arrived, carrying enough firepower to breach the classroom and stop the shooting, McCraw has said.
McCraw has singled out Arredondo for blame in restraining officers from going in earlier than they did. But the video shows multiple responding agencies on the scene, including officers from the Uvalde Police Department, the Uvalde County sheriff’s department, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, US Border Patrol and US Marshals Service.
The video file obtained by the Statesman, part of the investigative file, includes security video footage from a nearby funeral home, showing the gunman arrive at the school by wrecking a pickup truck into a ditch before the shooting starts, and includes audio of 911 calls and officers speaking in the hallway.
REPORT RELEASED:Officer aimed rifle at gunman outside school but didn’t fire
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More gunshots and more delays
At 12:21 pm, 45 minutes after police first arrived on the scene, four shots are heard and at least a dozen officers move toward the classroom.
An officer can be heard saying, “They’re making entry.”
Yet they do not.
At 12:30, an officer wearing a helmet and ballistic vest pauses to squirt hand sanitizer from a wall-mounted dispenser and rubs his hands together. Other armed officers walk back and forth, and discuss the classroom doors and windows. The hunt for the keys continues. One officer eventually brings a sledgehammer. The audio from the surveillance camera at times is garbled, but it is loud in the crowded hallway.
At 12:41, a man wearing blue rubber gloves and a black shirt, khaki pants and a black baseball cap, with a stethoscope around his neck, arrives and speaks to officers. Other paramedics arrive with supplies. Two officers in camouflage fist-bump each other.
At 12:50, a cadre of officers crouches outside the classroom. A burst of gunfire is heard, and the video ends. Authorities have said a Border Patrol officer killed the gunman. Investigators are awaiting the results of an analysis from an Austin-based medical expert on how many victims died after police first arrived.
ONE MONTH LATER:In Uvalde, moments of silence, yet so much left to say
Officials debate video release
The video has been the subject of an intense political debate, with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Uvalde mayor urging its public release and the Uvalde County district attorney opposing releasing it, apparently citing an active investigation into the shooting.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican and the chairman of the House committee investigating the shooting, said Tuesday that the committee plans to show the hallway video to members of the Uvalde community on Sunday, as well as discuss the panel’s preliminary report. He then plans to release both to the public.
The video that the House committee will make available will not include footage of the gunman walking into the school and the view from the hallway of the gunman initially firing his way into the classrooms. The video the Statesman obtained includes that footage.
Those seeking their release say it will bring clarity to the families of victims and others in Uvalde traumatized by the shooting, especially after state leaders, including Abbott, presented shifting accounts of the police response. Abbott said he was misled but has not said by whom.
Further obscuring the truth, local, state and federal officials have denied requests to release documents that could shed light on the police response, including 911 call transcripts, body camera footage, communications between law enforcement officers and arrest records from that day. They have appealed to the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who will make final decisions on the record disputes.
Meanwhile, anger boiled over at a Sunday night march and rally in Uvalde for greater gun restrictions, with some residents saying they no longer trust the local authorities and demanding answers.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism