Police face questions about their response to the massacre at a Texas school

UVALDE, Texas, May 26 (Reuters) – The gunman in the Texas school massacre burst unchallenged through an open door, then killed 19 children and two teachers as he hid in his classroom during a hour before a tactical team stormed in and killed him. police said Thursday.

The latest official details from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) about Tuesday’s mass shooting differed markedly from initial police reports and raised questions about security measures at the elementary school and the response of police. law enforcement.

The school district in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles (130 km) west of San Antonio, has a permanent policy of locking all entrances, including classroom doors, as a security measure. But one student told Reuters that some gates were left open on the day of the shooting to allow visiting parents to come and go for an awards day event.

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The newly detailed timeline came hours after videos emerged showing desperate parents outside Robb Elementary School during the attack. They pleaded with officers to storm the building, and some parents had to be restrained.

The human cost of the rampage, which ranks as the deadliest US school shooting in nearly a decade, deepened with the news that the husband of one of the slain teachers died of a heart attack Thursday while He was preparing for his wife’s funeral. read more

In a briefing for reporters, DPS spokesman Victor Escalon said the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, made it safely to the school grounds after crashing his truck nearby. The carnage began 12 minutes later.

Preliminary police reports had said Ramos, who drove to school from his home after shooting and wounding his grandmother there, was confronted by a school police officer as he ran toward the school. Instead, no armed officers were present when Ramos arrived at the school, Escalon said.

The suspect crashed his truck nearby at 11:28 a.m. (1628 GMT), opened fire on two people at a funeral home across the street, then scaled a fence onto school property and entered one of the buildings through an open back door at 11:40 am (1640 GMT), Escalon said.

Two responding officers entered the school four minutes later but took cover after Ramos fired at them multiple times, Escalon said.

The shooter then barricaded himself inside the fourth-grade classroom of his victims, mostly 9- and 10-year-olds, for an hour before a US Border Patrol tactical team stormed the room. and fatally shot him, Escalón said. Officers reported hearing at least 25 gunshots from inside the classroom early in the siege, he said. read more

‘DIFFICULT QUESTION’

The hour-long gap before border agents stormed in seemed at odds with an approach taken by many law enforcement agencies to confront “active shooters” in schools immediately to stop the bloodshed.

Asked if police should have made a massive entry sooner, Escalón replied, “That’s a difficult question,” adding that authorities will offer more information as the investigation progresses.

He described a chaotic scene after the initial exchange of gunfire, with officers calling for backup and evacuating students and staff.

In a video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen ripping up yellow police tape and yelling at officers to enter the building.

“An hour has passed and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Ledezma said in the video. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult. A woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s gunshots there.”

“We have guys going to look for kids,” an officer is heard telling the crowd. They are working.

‘AWARDS DAY’

Investigators were still looking for a motive, Escalon said. Ramos, a high school dropout, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness. Minutes before the attack, however, he had written a message online saying that he was about to “shoot up an elementary school,” according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The gunman’s father, also named Salvador Ramos, 42, expressed remorse for his son’s actions in an interview published Thursday by The Daily Beast news site.

“I just want people to know that I’m sorry, man, [for] what my son did,” he said. “He should have killed me, you know, instead of doing something like that to someone.”

In one of the most chilling accounts of the shooting, a fourth-grade boy in the classroom told local television station KENS5 that the gunman announced his presence as he entered, crouching slightly and saying, “It’s time to To die”.

Why a back door to the school building would be left unlocked is still under investigation, Escalon said.

Miguel Cerrillo, 35, and his 8-year-old daughter Elena, a third-grader at Robb, said the door the shooter used was usually locked.

“But that day they weren’t closed because it was awards day and some parents were coming through those doors,” said Elena, who was at the school at the time of the shooting. “The parking lot was really full out front, so people would park there and use that gate.”

At least 17 people, including children, were also injured in the massacre.

The attack, which comes 10 days after an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, has reignited a national debate about guns. US President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats have vowed to push through new gun restrictions, despite resistance from Republicans. read more

Biden will travel to Uvalde on Sunday.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brad Brooks in Uvalde, Texas; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; written by Joseph Ax and Steve Gorman; edited by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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