Texas officials say officers should have confronted school shooter earlier
Texas law enforcement officials now say local police were wrong to have waited to engage with the gunman at an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead on Tuesday.
At a press conference Friday, Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said officers believed students were no longer in harm’s way after the suspected gunman barricaded himself in a classroom.
“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.”
Several police entered the elementary school but did not engage the gunman, who was behind locked doors to adjoining classrooms.
Police have received increasing scrutiny over the past few days for their handling of the shooting.
In the moments immediately following the attack on Tuesday, officials praised the actions of a team of U.S. Border Patrol and Uvalde police for neutralizing the 18-year-old gunman.
Video has since come out showing witnesses yelling at officers standing outside the school to enter and confront the shooter. The father of a student killed in the shooting proposed that the bystanders should team up to enter the school because the police were staying outside, The Associated Press reported.
The Uvalde Police Department published a press release on Thursday saying that officers responded to the attack “within minutes.” At a press conference later that day, Victor Escalon, a regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said officers arrived at the school minutes after the gunman but needed to wait for reinforcements and more equipment after the shooter fired at them.
He said the Texas Ranger Division is leading the investigation into the shooting, including the way officers reacted.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday requesting the agency launch its own independent investigation into what happened.
McCraw, the director of the Texas public safety department, confirmed that a door to the school had been open when the shooter entered, having been propped open by a teacher shortly before.
McCraw said three Uvalde police officers who arrived on the scene a couple minutes after the shooter began firing in the school entered the building and received “grazing wounds” from the suspect.
An additional four officers, three of whom were members of the Uvalde Police Department and one county deputy sheriff, had also followed them in. He said officers began to arrive about 15 minutes later, and up to 19 officers were present in a hallway near the classroom where the suspect barricaded himself shortly after noon.
He said the on-scene commander during this time believed the situation had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject, and children were no longer at risk.
McCraw said members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit arrived at 12:15 p.m. He said law enforcement officials breached the door to the classroom at 12:50 p.m. using keys from a janitor because the door was locked. At that time, the officers shot and killed the gunman.
Officials had previously said they needed a staff member to provide a key because they were having trouble getting through the door.
Updated at 3:51 p.m.
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