Police face questions over their response to Texas school massacre

UVALDE, Texas, May 26 (Reuters) – The Texas school massacre gunman burst unchallenged through an unlocked door and then killed 19 children and two teachers as they were locked in their classroom for a hour before a tactical team burst in and killed him, police said Thursday.

The latest official details from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on Tuesday’s mass shooting differed sharply from initial police accounts and raised questions about security measures at the elementary school and law enforcement response. order.

The school district of Uvalde, Texas, about 130 miles west of San Antonio, has an ongoing policy of locking all entrances, including classroom doors, as a security measure. But a student told Reuters some doors remained unlocked on the day of the shooting to allow visiting parents to come and go for an awards ceremony.

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The newly detailed timeline came hours after videos emerged showing desperate parents outside Robb Elementary School during the attack. They begged the officers to storm the building and some fathers had to be restrained.

The human toll from the rampage, which ranks as the deadliest shooting at an American school in nearly a decade, worsened with news that the husband of one of the teachers killed has died of a heart attack. Thursday as he prepared for his wife’s funeral. Read more

In a briefing for reporters, DPS spokesman Victor Escalon said the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, made it safely to the school grounds after crashing his van at proximity. The carnage began 12 minutes later.

Preliminary police reports had indicated that Ramos, who had traveled to the school from his home after shooting and injuring his grandmother there, was confronted by a school policeman as he ran towards school. Instead, no armed officers were present when Ramos arrived at the school, Escalon said.

The suspect crashed his van nearby at 11:28 a.m. (4:28 p.m. GMT), opened fire on two people at a funeral home across the street, then scaled a fence onto the property of the school and entered one of the buildings through an unlocked back door at 11:40 a.m. (4:40 p.m. GMT), Escalon said.

Two responding officers entered the school four minutes later but took cover after Ramos fired several bullets at them, Escalon said.

The shooter then barricaded himself inside the fourth grade classroom of his victims, mostly 9 and 10 year olds, for an hour before a US Border Patrol tactical team entered the room and not shoot him to death, Escalon said. Officers reported hearing at least 25 gunshots from inside the classroom as the siege began, he said. Read more

‘DIFFICULT QUESTION’

The hour-long interval before border agents burst in appeared to be at odds with an approach taken by many law enforcement agencies to immediately confront “active shooters” at schools in order to stop the ‘bloodshed.

Asked if the police should have entered en masse sooner, Escalon said: “That’s a tough question,” adding that authorities would provide more information as the investigation progresses.

He described a chaotic scene after the initial exchange of gunfire, with officers calling for backup and evacuating students and staff.

In a video posted to Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking the yellow police tape and shouting for officers to enter the building.

“It’s been an hour already, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Ledezma said in the video. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another video posted to YouTube showed officers detaining at least one adult. A woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s gunshots in there.”

“We’ve got guys picking up kids,” an officer is heard telling the crowd. “They work.”

“AWARDS DAY”

Investigators were still looking for a motive, Escalon said. Ramos, a high school dropout, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness. Minutes before the attack, however, he had written a message online saying he was about to “shoot an elementary school”, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The shooter’s father, also named Salvador Ramos, 42, expressed remorse for his son’s actions in an interview published Thursday by The Daily Beast news site.

“I just want people to know that I’m sorry, man, [for] what my son did,” he reportedly said. β€œHe should have killed me, you know, instead of doing something like that to somebody.”

In one of the scariest accounts of the shooting, a fourth-grade boy who was in the classroom told local TV station KENS5 that the shooter had announced his presence when he walked in. squatting slightly and saying, “It’s time to die”.

Why a back door to the school building would be unsecured remains under investigation, Escalon said.

Miguel Cerrillo, 35, and his 8-year-old daughter, Elena, a ninth-grade student at Robb, said the door the shooter used was usually locked.

“But that day they weren’t locked in because it was awards day, and some parents were coming in through those doors,” said Elena, who was at the school when the shooting happened. “The parking lot was really crowded out front, so people were parking over there and using that gate.”

At least 17 people, including children, were also injured in the massacre.

The attack, which came 10 days after 10 people were killed by an 18-year-old gunman at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, has reignited a national gun debate. US President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats have pledged to push for new gun restrictions, despite resistance from Republicans. Read more

Biden is due to travel to Uvalde on Sunday.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brad Brooks in Uvalde, Texas; additional reporting from Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; written by Joseph Ax and Steve Gorman; edited by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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