Police Left Texas Shooter in a Classroom Full of Kids for About an Hour and Refuse to Say Why

Police engaged the Texas shooter at the start of the attack, but then they waited for backup. Now under intense scrutiny, authorities are being cagey about what happened.

“We will circle back on that” was all Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety had to say at a press conference Thursday when asked what, exactly, police were doing between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. while an armed man was inside an elementary school classroom killing children. 

Escalon, who serves as the South Texas regional director of DPS, was giving updates on Tuesday’s massacre at the Robb Elementary School that left 19 children, most of them 9 or 10 years old, and two adults dead. 

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What’s now clear is that the 18-year-old gunman, armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a backpack full of ammunition, was “contained” in a Grade 4 classroom (which was connected internally to a second classroom) where he slaughtered children, and he may have been in there for as long as an hour while local cops waited for backup. 

Once that “backup”, which included Border Patrol agents, arrived, they breached the classroom and killed the suspect. After the suspect was dead, the scene turned “into a rescue operation,” said Escalon, with officers asking, “How do we save these children?” 

At least 14 children who were among the dead never made it to hospital for treatment. Two more were declared dead upon arriving at hospital. 

Parents later had to submit to DNA swabs so that forensic investigators could identify their children as victims of the massacre. “Some of the kids must have been disfigured so badly,” explained Robert Allen, professor of forensic sciences at Oklahoma State University. “DNA analysis is becoming more commonplace, but its roots lie in disasters in which individuals cannot be identified by sight, fingerprints, or dental records.” 

For days, Texas officials have been extremely cagey about what exactly happened during that hour or so—and that continues to be the case. They’ve explicitly declined to give a timeline. They’ve offered conflicting versions of events. When pressed on those details, much of their reaction has generally been to congratulate law enforcement for their heroic deeds and to insist that a lot more kids would have been killed had they not taken the actions they did. 

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On Wednesday, Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales went on CNN to talk about the shooting. “You know it’s tragic to see so many children be murdered, but this could have been a whole lot worse,” Gonzales, a Republican, said, praising law enforcement for “pinning” the shooter into a classroom. 

“Just to be clear, he’s pinned into a classroom, where he was slaughtering kids?” asked host Jake Tapper. 

“I understand that he went in that classroom and begins to fire, begins to murder people, starting with that wonderful teacher, and he doesn't stop,” said Gonzales. “Police engage him, he takes fire through the door, then it stops and he barricades himself in. That’s where there’s a lull in the action.” 

Before the gunman went into a classroom, he was confronted by school resource officers and cops from the local police enforcement, somewhere in the school, said Escalon on Thursday. “They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, and get cover,” he said. 

Then there’s another confrontation between the shooter and law enforcement outside the classroom that he is ultimately barricaded into. Then law enforcement pull back and wait for backup to help them breach the door. It is currently not clear how long they waited. 

When asked about the anguished parents who begged police officers to go into the school building on Tuesday while the attack was ongoing, Escalon cast doubt on whether those reports were true or “just rumors.” “We have not verified it,” he said. “What part haven’t you verified,” a reporter replied. “If it’s a true statement or not.” (Videos on social media have shown family members screaming and frantically trying to get into the school.) One parent told the Wall Street Journal that she begged the police first politely, and then with more urgency, to allow her into the school. After a few minutes, she told the Journal, federal marshals put her in handcuffs and scolded her for “intervening in an active investigation.” Another witness told the Journal she saw one father be tackled to the ground and pepper-sprayed by police.

Tagged:

Crime, police, Mass Shootings, texas school shooting

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