UVALDE, Texas, May 28 – Texas investigators on Saturday wanted to find out how serious he had made during a shooting at a school in Uvalde, including why about 20 police officers were sitting outside the classroom when 911 children called for help.
What made the police wait in the hallway for about an hour before entering and killing a gunman is at the heart of a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation into the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in the worst shooting incident in an American school in nearly a decade.
As calls for private investigations and criticism of law enforcement response, police from as far away as Houston and Dallas arrived in Uvalde to help support local authorities, in some cases providing protection to Uvalde police, the mayor, and a gun shop where the shooter had purchased two automatic rifles.
Meanwhile, investigators are still searching for the motive. Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old graduate of high school, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness, although the shocking messages he posted on social media came to light.
At least two children made 911 calls from fourth-grade classrooms after Ramos entered Tuesday with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Community Safety, said earlier this week.
“She’s in room 112,” the girl said on the phone at 12:03 p.m. The same girl had pleaded with a 911 operator to “please send the police now” at 12:43 p.m. and again after four minutes. At 12:51, or more than 45 minutes after making his first phone call to 911, a U.S.-led strategic team The Border Patrol raided and ended the siege of Robb Elementary School.
In all, at least eight calls to the emergency room were kept inside while officers waited outside. It is not yet clear how many 9- and 10-year-old schoolchildren may have been killed at that time. Two children who called have survived.
The police commander, a regional police official, erred and ruled that Ramos was detained and that the children were no longer at risk, giving police time to prepare for the assault, McCraw said.
“It was the wrong decision, time,” McCraw said, admitting that general policies call police to deal with an active school shooter, rather than waiting for a backup.
Border Patrol staff at the scene were frustrated by the commander’s misunderstanding, believing it had delayed efforts to end the attack, a legal source said.
As Border Patrol police entered the classroom following the defense, the shooter emerged from a cupboard and fired at them, a source said. Ramos was shot dead.
“I hate to believe that some of these children would have been saved if the police had been involved immediately after the shooting of these children as it happened an hour later some of them were bleeding,” said one legal source familiar with the incident. “That’s what breaks the heart.”
Official reports on how the police responded to the incident are under investigation. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the day after the assassination, praised the courage of the police, who called for the saving of lives. On Friday, he said he was “very hot” and misled investigators about the response.
U.S. Ambassador Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who called for an independent FBI investigation into police response, visited the school on Saturday and told he was “deeply disturbed” by the conflicting information that had emerged.
At least two officers from the Department of Community Safety were among 19 officers waiting outside the classroom, but the DPS director and state governor both said they had been misled, Castro said.
“I do not know who really lied to them about what happened,” Castro said. “State officials are trying to blame the locals for everything that happened. But at the moment it just doesn’t connect.”
A DPS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Javier Cazares, whose daughter, Jacklyn, 9, died in hospital after being shot inside the school, is devastated thinking he has died as a result of waiting too long for help. You want answers about what went wrong with the police response, and you want those who made mistakes to answer.
“My little girl was shot, and who knows how long she bled on the floor in her classroom? God knows how long she was panting because of her little life,” Cazares told.
RESPECT FOR THE DEAD
A memorial in the vast area of Uvalde, a town of 16,000 people west of San Antonio, was busy on Saturday. Families surrounded the fountain and placed flowers, balloons, and animals on 21 crosses erected to honor the dead. The children wrote messages on the sidewalk with chalk.
Meanwhile, about 250 miles [450 km] from Houston, about 100 protesters gathered on the second day of protests outside the annual rally of the National Rifle Association, demanding “gun control now” in the face of NRA supporters.
Members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing force, were on the other side of the blockade, divided by police, criticized by protesters and supported by NRA members.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has called on Congress to authorize new gun controls following the shooting and massacre ten days ago at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, will visit Uvalde on Sunday to pay tribute to the victims.