Everything Cops in Uvalde Were Doing While They Weren't Saving Kids From Massacre

Leaked video shows they fist bumped, texted, and sanitized their hands as a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers.
Officers gathered at the opposite end of the hallway from where a gunman shot children and teachers.

For well over an hour, various police officers responding to a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School cowered, paced back and forth, checked their phones, adjusted their sunglasses, sanitized their hands, and pointed their guns at the ground while a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers inside a pair of classrooms, according to a video released by a Texas news outlet.

The Austin American Statesman released the hour-and-22-minute-long video, which primarily depicts a hallway inside the school where law enforcement from different agencies gathered on May 24 as the shooter unleashed round after round with an AR-15 rifle inside the classrooms.

Since the very beginning, the state of Texas and Uvalde police have pushed back on releasing any video footage of the incident. They’ve argued the footage could allow other mass shooters to learn from it and that it’s traumatic for parents. One private law firm hired by Uvalde said the footage was “highly embarrassing” and not a “legitimate concern to the public.”

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As more evidence has come to light, criticism against the police response has mounted, with Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw describing it as an “abject failure.”

The video opens outside the school, with the gunman crashing a truck and firing a couple shots at two passersby before he starts shooting at the school. Then there’s audio from a teacher’s 911 call as she says, “I cannot see him. The kids are running! Oh, my god,” and repeatedly screams at the children to “Get down! Get in your rooms! Get in your rooms!” 

Next the video shows the shooter entering the school and heading down to the far end of the hallway. A child walks up and turns the corner when he hears the gunman spray bullets and runs back where he came from. 

The gunman then enters a classroom and begins firing rounds; authorities have said more than 100 rounds were fired in two and a half minutes. An editor’s note from the Austin American Statesman says “we also have removed the sound of children screaming as the gunman enters the classroom. We consider this too graphic.” (In a heated meeting, some parents were furious over the video being leaked.)

At around 11:36 a.m.—three minutes after the shooting in the classrooms begins—officers show up in the hallway. Three armed officers, one holding a rifle, run down the hall in the direction of the classrooms with the gunman inside, where shots are still being fired. Four more come in and hang back at the opposite end of the hallway. 

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For another excruciating 77 minutes, law enforcement officers armed with high-powered rifles, ballistic shields, vests, helmets, tear gas, and masks do various things, none of which are rescuing the children. 

VICE News has viewed the entire video—here are some specific disturbing moments from the police response: 

Running away from gunshots  

Four officers hang back at the opposite end of the hallway from the gunman, one paces back and forth with his arms crossed and other checks his phone which has a logo from the Marvel anti-hero character The Punisher. A minute after police arrive on scene shots are fired, the three officers who approached the classrooms run back down the hallway and hide behind the corners, joining their colleagues. 

Cellphones going off, smiling 

About 20 minutes after police arrive, someone's cellphone starts ringing. One officer looks around and pats his pockets to see if it’s his. Another smiles and shakes his head. 

Entering an empty classroom 

At around 11:59 a.m., several officers, still hiding behind a wall at the opposite end of where the gunman and kids are, start knocking on the door of the classroom closest to them and enter it. It’s empty. At this point there appears to have been no attempt to rescue the children for over 20 minutes but it seems clear that police know where they are located. 

Crouching behind ballistic shields 

Half an hour after arriving on scene, four officers crouch behind two ballistics shields with rifles pointed in the direction of the gunman who is still inside the classrooms at the far end of the hallway. One stands behind them on a phone call. Still no rescue attempt. 

Phone calls and texting 

Body camera footage taken from outside the school shows one officer on the phone, another appearing to be texting, and another standing around at 12:14 p.m., nearly 40 minutes after law enforcement showed up. 

Arranging tear gas canisters 

About 45 minutes after arriving, one officer puts on a gas mask after arranging what appear to be tear gas canisters on the floor. He doesn’t appear to use the tear gas. 

Dressed in camo, standing around 

At 12:21 p.m., after more shots are fired, a crowd of officers—including some in head-to-toe camouflage—head toward the classrooms with their rifles raised. At least two of them are holding shields in the air. There’s still no rescue attempt. 

Reading documents 

As officers continue to stand around in the hallway, one paces back and forth reading from a file folder of documents, his rifle hanging around him and pointed at the ground. It’s unclear what the documents are. 

Fist-bumping

At one point, an officer walks toward the end of the hallway to where several of his colleagues are hiding and fist-bumps one of them. 

Hand sanitizing, playing with button-up shirt  

About 54 minutes after police arrived, several remain hidden behind the corners at the opposite end of the hall. One, in a helmet and vest, is embraced by a fellow officer. He then emerges from the corner to dispense hand sanitizer and then retreats again. Back behind the corner, the same officer starts furiously typing. About 20 minutes later the same officer rolls down the sleeves of his button-up shirt and re-buttons the cuffs. 

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Hugging 

After 77 minutes, law enforcement breach the classrooms and kill the gunman. One of the officers who remained hidden behind the corner for the majority of the video hugs another. 

Parents’ reactions

In response to the release of the video, Felicia Martinez, whose son Xaiver Lopez was killed in the shooting, told CNN she was “very angry” that the families of the victims didn’t get to see the footage first. 

“To the person that leaked it—screw you,” she said through tears. 

“We’re the parents that lost our children. We’re supposed to do this together first, not for the world… I know the world is suffering too, but these were our babies.” 

“Who do you think you are to release footage like that of our children?” said Angel Garza, the stepfather of Amerie Jo Garza. “You want to go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world. What makes you think that’s OK?” 

Nikki Cross, the aunt of Uziyah Garcia, added that the district attorney refused to show the families the footage. 

“Once again, the world got to see it before us. Just like the day of the shooting, when Governor (Greg) Abbott announced to you all that our children were dead and we had no idea. It’s like reliving that day all over again.” 

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.