OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Police officers who responded to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month in which 19 fourth-grade children and two adults were killed by a lone gunman have been heavily criticized for the time it took them to engage the shooter.
One recent report said that Uvalde Police and other first-in law enforcement officers waited more than 75 minutes.
Now, the top Texas law enforcement officer is adding fuel to the fire with a claim that officers could have actually engaged with, and stopped, the 18-year-old gunman within “minutes.”
That they did not was an “abject failure” on their part, according to the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“There’s compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre,” said Col. Steve McCraw, the department’s director.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the West building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” McCraw continued.
“The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he continued.
“One error; 14 minutes and eight seconds,” the director said of the young students waiting in a classroom for police to save them.
McCraw went on to testify that officers were, in part, waiting for a “key that was not needed.”
“I have great reasons to believe it was never secured,” he testified. “How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?”
“Obviously, not enough training was done in this situation, plain and simple. Because terrible decisions were made by the on-site commander,” McCraw said during testimony before a state Senate committee on Tuesday, blasting the officer in charge.
Parents and others have also heavily criticized the officers who were first on the scene for refusing to engage the shooter much more quickly. McCraw’s testimony appears to justify their anger.
One mother said she was briefly handcuffed for trying to get past officers to get into the school to get her two sons. After they released her, she did just that.
“The police were doing nothing,” mother Angeli Rose Gomez accused, according to The Wall Street Journal. “They were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”
Gomez said “she was one of the numerous parents waiting outside the school who began encouraging— first politely, and then with more urgency — police and other law enforcement to enter the school sooner,” the Journal report outlined.
“After a few minutes, she said, U.S. Marshals put her in handcuffs, telling her she was being arrested for intervening in an active investigation,” the paper added.
Desperate to reach her children, the mother said she was able to convince local Uvalde officers whom she knew to get the marshals to un-cuff her.
“Once freed from her cuffs, Ms. Gomez made her distance from the crowd, jumped the school fence, and ran inside to grab her two children,” the report detailed. “She sprinted out of the school with them.”
A spokesperson for the marshals denied that any parent was cuffed, according to the WSJ.
Earlier this week, the San Antonio Express reported that security footage at the Robb Elementary School shows that cops waited some 77 minutes before they even tried to open two doors into the classrooms where the children and adults were being murdered.
The New York Post adds:
It was unclear if the door was locked while Ramos conducted the shooting spree, but police did not even check or try to open it, despite having access to a Halligan tool which could have broken the lock, according to the report.
Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo was in charge of the operation. He previously told The Texas Tribune that he waited for 40 minutes for keys from the custodian to try to open the classroom door.