School Massacre in Texas | “Lamentable failure” of the police in Uvalde

(Austin) Authorities had enough officers at the scene of the Uvalde school shooting to arrest the shooter three minutes after he entered the building, and officers never checked to see if the door to a classroom was locked, the head of the school argued Texas Public Safety on Tuesday called the May 24 police response a “dismal failure.”

Posted at 11:46 am
Updated at 1:11 p.m

Jim Vertuno and Jake Bleiberg
Associated Press

Instead, the police, armed with guns, hovered around for nearly an hour before finally storming the classroom and gunning down the gunman, who had just killed 19 children and two teachers.

But it turned out that the door to that classroom couldn’t be locked from the inside, and there’s no evidence police tried to open it while the shooter was inside, said Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public safety. Instead, he said, the police waited for the key. “Why didn’t you examine the handle to see if the door was really locked?” asked the statewide official.

Colonel McCraw testified Tuesday at a Texas Senate hearing on the police handling of the May 24 tragedy at the Uvalde School. Delays in law enforcement response have been investigated by the federal, Texas and local governments.

“There was clearly not enough training in that situation, plain and simple. Because the commander on the ground made terrible decisions,” McCraw said of Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo.

Eight minutes after the gunman broke into the school, an officer pointed out that police had a crowbar that could be used to force open the classroom door, McCraw said. Nineteen minutes after the gunman entered, the first ballistic shield was brought into the building by police, the witness said.

Mr. McCraw told the Senate committee that Pete Arredondo had decided to put police officers’ lives ahead of children’s.

The state’s director of public safety Tuesday listed a number of missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and other mistakes that day to the Senate committee:

  • Chief Arredondo didn’t have a radio with him;
  • Police and sheriff radios did not work at school; only the on-site border guards’ radios worked indoors, and they didn’t work perfectly;
  • Certain of the school’s charts, which the police used to coordinate their intervention, were flawed.

Questions about police intervention began a few days after the killing. Mr McCraw had said three days after the shooting that Chief Arredondo made “the wrong decision” in choosing not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes. Meanwhile, trapped fourth graders in two classrooms called 911 in desperation, and distressed parents outside the school asked police to enter the school.

Mr Arredondo later explained that he did not believe himself to be the person responsible that day – he assumed someone else had taken control of the intervention. He has declined repeated requests from The Associated Press for comment on the case.

As for the amount of time that elapsed before police entered the classroom, Mr. McCraw believes that “in an environment with active shooters, that is unbearable […] it set our profession back a decade.”

In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and false accounts of what happened, sometimes retracting statements hours after they were made. But Mr McCraw assured lawmakers on Tuesday that everything he said was “confirmed”.

The 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

With contributions by Jamie Stengle, in Dallas

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