Texas officials are clapping themselves on the back for what they’ve described as “heroic” and “courageous” actions by law enforcement who responded to an armed 18-year-old at an elementary school on Tuesday.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed. Seventeen more were injured.
And despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s insistence at a press conference Wednesday that things “could have been worse” if not for law enforcement’s actions, officials are being strangely opaque about what actually happened at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
When asked how much time passed between the gunman arriving at the school and the gunman being killed, Texas’ Director of Public Safety Steve McCraw offered an indefinite response.
“Forty minutes, an hour,” he said. “But I don’t want to give you a particular timeline.”
“Bottom line, law enforcement was there, they did engage immediately, they did contain him in a classroom,” he added. “They put a tactical stack together, in a very orderly way, and breached and assaulted the individual.”
It’s unclear how long the shooter was in that classroom until a tactical unit arrived on the scene. It’s also unclear how many children were in that classroom.
Sometime late Tuesday morning, the gunman shot his grandmother in the face at the Uvalde home where he lived with her. (As of Wednesday, she remained hospitalized and in critical condition.) He then got into his truck, drove toward the elementary school a few miles away, and crashed into a ditch more than a hundred feet from the property.
A school resource officer had heard the reports about the crashed vehicle, so he confronted him, according to McCraw. The gunman entered the school anyway. “[The school resource officer] followed him right in immediately,” McCraw said. At that point, “rounds were exchanged.” Then officers from the Uvalde Police Department arrived. There was more shooting, and the officers were wounded (though other officials have said repeatedly that they sustained just minor injuries).
Eventually, those officers “were responsible” for containing the gunman in a classroom, McCraw said. (Spokespersons for the Texas Department of Public Safety had repeatedly told news outlets earlier that the suspect barricaded himself into the classroom and immediately started shooting.)
Terrified parents outside the building, however, say that police wouldn’t enter the building, despite their pleas, and physically restrained them from going inside to help their kids.
Spokespersons from Texas Department of Public Safety said in several media interviews that Uvalde Police first received 911 calls at around 11:20 a.m. local time reporting the crash, and reporting a man wearing a backpack, some form of body armor, and holding a rifle, approaching Robb Elementary.
At 11:43 a.m., the school announced that it was going on lockdown, according to KSAT, a local news station. That was the same time that the Uvalde Police Department wrote on Facebook that the school was the site of an active police scene and urged people to avoid the area.
At 12:17 p.m., the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District wrote on social media that there was an active shooter at Robb Elementary, and that people should avoid the area.
At 1:06 p.m., more than an hour and a half after those first 911 calls were made, the Uvalde Police Department said that the shooter “was in police custody.”
It isn’t necessarily unusual for timelines to shift in the immediate aftermath of a chaotic shooting like the one that happened in Uvalde. But the difference between some of the official accounts were striking.
Consistent with what McCraw said, Texas DPS Sgt. Erick Estrada indicated in several media interviews that the gunman encountered law enforcement before he entered the school building. Estrada said a school resource officer assigned to Robb Elementary first tried and failed to stop him. The gunman then encountered two more officers from the Uvalde Police Department.
“They weren’t able to stop him there, so they did ask for assistance,” Estrada told CNN. A tactical unit arrived “and eliminated the threat,” Estrada said. “Unfortunately, before that happened, the shooter did manage to make entry into the school.”
Another spokesperson for DPS offered a different version of events. Lt. Chris Olivarez said that when law enforcement, including the school resource officer, responded to the scene, they could already hear gunshots coming from inside the school, according to multiple news outlets.
Later that night, Olivarez reiterated that perspective to Sky News: When local law enforcement, school officers, and state troopers first arrived on scene, they heard “gunshots inside a classroom.” “They tried to make entry into the building, they were met with gunfire by the suspect,” he said.
“Some of those officers were shot, they began breaking windows around the school, trying to evacuate children, teachers, anyone they could, to get them out of that building,” Olivarez said. “We do know that the shooter was able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself into a classroom, and started shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom having no regard for human life, just a complete evil person.”
Olivarez said that officers had to wait for backup but didn’t say how long that took.
A spokesperson for Border Patrol said in a statement on Twitter that border patrol officers were part of the team that later responded to the school and helped end the gunman’s assault.
While some details from officials remain murky, one takeaway has become very clear: They still believe a “good guy with a gun” is the solution to ending a mass shooting. Law enforcement, Gov. Abbott, and other members of the GOP have repeatedly stated that more guns, not less guns, make the public safer.
The myth of an armed good Samaritan who could intervene and save lives during a mass shooting is typically invoked by Republicans and gun rights activists in the wake of such tragedies. But the fact that numerous armed officers failed to prevent one person from slaughtering 19 children and two teachers shows just how hollow that rhetoric is.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect reports that parents begged police to enter the building.
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