Uvalde shooter entered school through door that had been propped open
Ali Linan CNHI Texas statehouse reporter
AUSTIN — A teacher left a backdoor propped open, unintentionally allowing an 18-year-old gunman inside the school where he killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde on Tuesday, public officials said.
Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw answered more questions regarding the massacre in a press conference Friday in Uvalde, saying that in hindsight many poor decisions were made.
McCraw also acknowledged several missteps including when the commanding officer on the ground believed the incident had transitioned from an active shooter situation to a barricaded subject situation, adding that it was believed that no children were in harm’s way.
McCraw also said this was believed because there was a barrage of rounds fired — hundreds — over four minutes. Then, the bullets were sporadic and at the door of the classroom, leading officers to believe there may not have been anyone alive inside the classrooms – which were joined together by a Jack-and-Jill restroom. Because of this, it was decided to wait for law enforcement to receive appropriate equipment and backup as officers believed they were outgunned. The officers also decided to wait to retrieve the janitor’s keys to open the classrooms, as it was locked, he added.
However, 9-1-1 calls from students and a teacher inside the impacted classrooms tell a different story.
Several 9-1-1 calls were also reported from the time Salvador Ramos entered the building until he was killed, including one at 12:03 p.m. from a teacher in the classroom. She called several times, reporting at 12:13 p.m. that multiple students were dead. At 12:16. p.m, she informed emergency operators that eight to nine students remained alive.
Emergency calls continued through 12:51 p.m., from students and teachers, where one student at 12:47 p.m. — more than an hour after the initial shots were fired — begged for operators to “please send police now.”
With lives at risk, McCraw went on to say that it is standard law enforcement protocol in Texas that when there is an active shooter, officers are required to keep shooting until the subject is dead. He added that believed entry into the classrooms should have been made immediately.
“When it comes to an active shooter, you don’t have to wait on tactical gear. Plain and simple. You’ve got an obligation,” McCraw said. “In retrospect, from where I’m sitting right now, clearly there were kids in the room, clearly.”
According to emergency calls and surveillance footage, Ramos crashed the vehicle he was driving in a ditch at 11:30 a.m. Immediately after, the teacher who propped the door open ran back inside to retrieve a phone. Then the teacher returned to the propped door, calling 9-1-1, noticed the shooter nearing the school, panicking and ran inside, leaving the door open.
Then, at 11:33 a.m, Ramos entered the building and began shooting into the classrooms where he barricaded himself.
At 11:35 a.m., three Uvalde police officers entered the building, where two were grazed by bullets. Four other Uvalde police officers also entered the building, and intermittent shots were then fired through 11:44 a.m., McCraw recounted.
By 11:51 a.m., 21 minutes after the first shots fired, FBI agents arrived. There were as many as 19 officers in the hallways of the school at the time, McCraw said. “The benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There’s no excuse for that. There were plenty of officers (at the scene) to do what needed to be done.”
McGraw added: “This is about finding facts and reporting facts as (quickly) as we can. It’s not about trying to defend or it’s not about trying to assess or even be hypercritical,” McCraw said. “It’s about the facts and sharing whatever we learn on the facts as (quickly) as we can to be as transparent as we can.”