UVALDE, Texas, May 27 (Reuters) – Frantic children called 911 at least half a dozen times from classrooms across Texas where a massacre was unfolding, pleading for police intervention, as a 20 officers waited in the hallway for nearly an hour before entering and killing the shooter, authorities said Friday.
According to Colonel Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Ramos, who drove to Robb Elementary School from his home after shooting and wounding his grandmother there, later killed 19 children and two teachers in the deadliest shooting at a US school in nearly a year. decade.
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“He’s in room 112,” a girl whispered into the phone at 12:03 a.m., more than 45 minutes before a US Border Patrol-led tactical team finally arrived and ended the siege.
The on-scene commander, the chief of the school district police department in Uvalde, Texas, believed at the time that Ramos was barricaded inside and the children were no longer in immediate danger, giving the police time to prepare, McCraw said.
“Looking back, where I’m sitting now, of course, it wasn’t the right decision,” McCraw said. “It was the wrong decision, period.”
The revelation of local law enforcement’s delay in prosecuting the teenager armed with a semi-automatic rifle came as the nation’s leading gun rights group, the National Rifle Association, opened its annual convention 275 miles from Houston.
Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican and staunch gun rights advocate who addressed the meeting in a pre-recorded video, seized on apparent police misconduct in Uvalde, telling a press conference later that he had been misled and “furious at what had happened”.
Abbott denied that recently enacted Texas gun laws, including a controversial measure removing license requirements for carrying a concealed weapon, had “any relevance” to Tuesday’s bloodshed. He suggested state lawmakers pay renewed attention to tackling mental illness.
“SEND THE POLICE NOW”
Even as the shooting reopened the long-running, intractable national debate over easy access to military-grade weapons in the United States, the latest timeline of the Uvalde school attack has drawn public dismay. , including among the very officials who reported it.
McGraw, whose voice was at times muffled with emotion, said: “We are here to report the facts, not to defend what has been done or what action has been taken.”
Some of the students, mostly ages 9 and 10, trapped with the shooter survived the massacre, including at least two who called 911, McCraw said. He did not offer a precise count.
There were at least eight calls from classrooms to 911 between 12:03 p.m., half an hour after Ramos entered the building, and 12:50 p.m., when Border Patrol agents and police made burst in and shot Ramos down.
It was unclear whether officers at the scene were aware of the calls while they waited, McCraw said.
A girl McCraw did not identify called at 12:16 p.m. and told police there were still “eight to nine” students alive, the colonel said. Three shots were heard during a call made at 12:21 p.m.
The girl who made the first call implored the operator to “please send the police now” at 12:43 p.m. and again four minutes later.
Officers arrived three minutes after that last call, according to McCraw, when the tactical team used a janitor’s key to open the locked classroom door.
Several officers had their first exchange of gunfire with Ramos shortly after he entered the school at 11:33 a.m., when two officers were grazed by bullets and took cover. There were as many as 19 officers in the hallway at 12:03 p.m. when the first 911 call from inside the classroom was received, McCraw said.
Videos released on Thursday showed anguished parents outside the school, urging police to storm the building during the attack, with some to be restrained by police.
Standard law enforcement protocols call for police to confront an active school shooter without delay, rather than waiting for a backup or more firepower, a point McCraw acknowledged on Friday.
Medical experts are also stressing the importance of evacuating patients with serious gunshot wounds to a trauma center within 60 minutes – what emergency doctors call “the golden hour” – in order to save lives.
McCraw described other times Ramos could have been thwarted. A school officer, responding to calls about a gunman who crashed a car at the funeral home across the street, walked past Ramos as he crouched next to a vehicle on the school property. Police said Ramos shot two people standing outside before scaling a fence on school grounds.
The door that gave Ramos access to the building had been left open by a teacher, McCraw said, in violation of school district security policies.
The attack, which came 10 days after a shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead, intensified the long-running national debate over gun laws.
At the NRA meeting, prominent Republicans including former President Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas doubled down on their arguments that tougher gun laws would do little or nothing to appease the increasing frequency of mass shootings in the United States. Read more
Around 500 protesters holding crosses, signs and pictures of Uvalde shooting victims gathered outside the convention shouting “NRA, get out”.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has urged Congress to approve new gun restrictions, will visit the community of 16,000 about 130 miles west of San Antonio on Sunday. Read more
Investigators are still looking for the motive for the attack. Ramos, a high school dropout, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness.
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Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brad Brooks in Uvalde, Texas; additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Doina Chiacu in Washington; written by Joseph Axe; edited by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman
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