Uvalde response to mass shooting was ‘abject failure’ that put lives of officers above children, hearing told

The law enforcement response to the Uvalde mass shooting was an “abject failure” where the police chief “put the lives of officers above the lives of children”, an official said at the first Texas Senate public hearing about the massacre.

Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, gave damning testimony on Tuesday morning as officials try to piece together the events surrounding the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Robb Elementary School last month.

“There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the past two decades since Columbine,” he said.

Mr McCraw levelled the blame at Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo – who was the officer in charge of the law enforcement response – accusing him of being the “only thing” stopping officers entering the classroom and bringing an end to the active shooting situation, even when officers were armed and wearing body armour.

“Three minutes after the subject entered the west hallway, there was sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour, to isolate distract and neutralise the subject,” he said.

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”

“The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had body armour. The children had none.

“The officers had training. The subject had none.”

Mr McCraw, who is leading an investigation into the law enforcement response, said that Chief Arredondo waited for radios, firearms and keys before sending officers into the two adjoining classrooms while the students and staff waited to be saved.

“One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long the children waited and the teachers waited in rooms 111 to be rescued,” he said.

“And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for radios and rifles. Then he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for key that was never needed.”

Mr McCraw went on to provide the most detailed timeline to date about the events that morning, explaining what officers were doing in the 77-minute gap between the gunman Salvador Ramos entering the school and opening fire at his victims and a Border Patrol unit entering the classroom and shooting him dead.

Shocking new details came to light including that officers were “diverted to crowd control” of parents outside the school just 19 minutes after the shooting began – instead of officers entering the two adjoining classrooms where Ramos was holed up with dying students and teachers.

The hearing comes as questions continue to mount over the law enforcement response to the mass shooting, with a delay in officers entering the classroom and killing the gunman now believed to have cost lives.

In total, law enforcement officers waited 77 minutes from the time the shooting started inside the school at 11.33am before a Border Patrol tactical unit stormed the classroom and shot Ramos dead at 12.50pm.

Shocking surveillance footage, obtained by theAustin American-Statesman and reported on Monday, revealed that police officers armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield had arrived in the hallway outside the classroom 19 minutes after the gunman entered the building.

However, they stalled in the hallway for another 58 minutes before entering the classroom.

The revelation came after it emerged that the door to the classroom where the gunman was holed up with his victims may have been unlocked the entire time.

A law enforcement source told the San Antonio Express-News that officers never even tried to open the door to the two connecting classrooms but appeared to assume that it was locked.

Now, investigators believe it could have been open due to a malfunction in the automatic locking system that appears to have enabled the gunman to enter the classroom in the building in the first place.

Officials previously blamed the delayed response on them being unable to get through the locked door and needing to wait for a key to get inside.

Chief Arredondo – who was in charge that day and has come under fire over his response to the mass shooting – broke his silence in an interview with The Texas Tribune last week, claiming the classroom was locked and that he spent much of the time trying to find the right keys to enter the room.

He said he had called for keys to the room and a custodian turned up with a large key ring, containing dozens of keys which he tried to use to enter.

However the source said that the police chief was actually trying those keys out on other classrooms to find the master key – and not on the classroom where the gunman was holed up with his victim.

The city of Uvalde and its police department have stopped releasing information about the shooting to the public and are fighting public records requests made by several media organisations for the likes of 911 calls and bodycam footage.

During the one hour and 17 minute delay, terrified students called 911 from inside the room at least seven times while desperate parents outside tried to storm the building themselves after growing irate with the police delay.

The significant time lapse may well have cost lives as it emerged that more than a dozen of the 33 children and three teachers trapped inside the two adjoining classrooms were still alive during that time.

One teacher died in an ambulance on the way to hospital while three of the children died after reaching hospitals.

The special Texas Senate committee – Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans – has been tasked to probe the events of the 24 May massacre and make legislative recommendations to the state.

Eight Republican and three Democratic state senators sit on the committee.

Notably absent from the committee is Democratic state Sen Roland Gutierrez, whose district covers Uvalde.

Sen Gutierrez has hit out at the police response to the mass shooting and called for the state to pass tighter gun control measures.

The next Senate committee hearing will take place on Wednesday.

At least two other separate investigations have been launched by the Texas Rangers and the US Justice Department.

On a national level, the massacre of 21 innocent people in Uvalde has led to renewed debate over gun control in Congress.

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators said they had reached a deal on a package of narrow gun safety measures.

The deal includes expanding background checks for people aged 18 to 21 and more money for school safety and mental health resources.

However, it does not include the ban on assault weapons that many are calling for, after high-capacity rifles were used in the recent attacks to kill multiple people.

The massacre at Uvalde came just 10 days after 10 Black people were shot dead by a self-proclaimed white supremacist in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

In both shootings, the 18-year-old suspects used semi-automatic rifles.

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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