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A father’s anxiety outside of school in Texas while filming unfolded

Uvalde, Texas – Javier Cazares was speeding towards his daughter’s school when he heard a shooting was taking place and left his truck with the door open as he ran into the schoolyard. In his haste, he didn’t have his gun with him.

He spent the next 35 to 45 agonizing minutes scanning the children fleeing Robb Elementary School for his 9-year-old “banger,” Jacklyn. All the time he longed to run into himself – and became more and more restlessalong with other parents that the police they did no more to stop the teenage gunman who was hiding in a classroom and killing children.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all have to go in there. You all have to do your jobs,'” said Cazares, an army veteran. “We were ready to go to work and rush in.”

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19 children and two teachers were eventually shot the approximately 80 minutes the shooter spent at school in Uvalde, Texas, a small, mostly Latin American community which sits among vegetable fields midway between San Antonio and the US-Mexico border.

This account from deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook Based on law enforcement schedule, records and numerous interviews with residents of Uvalde in the hours and days after the massacre.

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Salvador Ramos was up early on May 24 and sent ominous messages. Male authorities discovered the shooter had turned 18 the week before and promptly purchased two AR-15 rifles along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

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In the early hours of the morning in his grandparents’ shady neighborhood, just half a mile from where he would turn into a killing zone, Ramos wrote “I’ll be right over” to a woman via Instagram and sent someone a private Facebook message with the Inscription He wanted to shoot his grandmother.

Within a few hours he had done it.

Sometime after 11 a.m., a neighbor who was in his garden heard a gunshot and looked up to see Ramos running out the front door of his grandparents’ house towards a pickup truck parked in the narrow street. The 18-year-old appeared to be panicking and was struggling to get the Ford out of the park, Gilbert Gallegos, 82, said.

Eventually, Ramos drove off, throwing a cloud of gravel into the air. Moments later, his grandmother emerged from the one-story house, covered in blood.

“He did that,” Gallegos recalled her scream. “He shot me.”

Gallego’s wife called 911 while he was taking the wounded woman to their backyard. As they hid and waited for the police, more shots rang out.

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At 11:28 a.m., Ramos had sped to Robb Elementary and crashed the pickup truck into a drainage ditch, authorities said. At that moment, the video shows a teacher entering the school through a door that the teacher had come out of and was open a minute earlier.

This door was normally closed and bolted according to security protocol. But it stayed ajar.

Witnesses said Ramos jumped from the passenger side of the truck with a rifle and a backpack full of ammunition. After shooting at two men coming out of a nearby funeral home, Ramos jumped a chain link fence and headed towards the school – still firing – when panicked people nearby called the police.

Authorities initially said Ramos fired with a school police officer before entering the building, but they later said the officer wasn’t actually on campus and “torn back” upon hearing from the gunman.

But the officer initially approached the wrong man and confronted what turned out to be a teacher – after standing just meters away from Ramos, who was crouched behind a vehicle parked in front of the school.

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From his hideout, Ramos walked to the open door at 11:33 a.m., slipped through and into the adjoining fourth-grade classrooms, authorities said. He quickly fired more than 100 rounds.

In one of those rooms, Miah Cerrillo, 11, covered herself in a friend’s blood to look dead. she told CNN. After the shooter walked into the adjacent room, she could hear screams, more gunfire, and music blaring from the shooter.

Two minutes after Ramos entered the school, three police officers followed him through the same door, quickly followed by four others. Authorities said Ramos exchanged fire from the classroom with officers down the hall and two of them suffered “grazes”.

The first cops on the scene were outmatched by Ramos’ powerful, high-end rifle, according to a man watching from a nearby home.

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“After he started shooting at the cops, the cops stopped shooting,” said Juan Carranza, 24. “You could tell the firepower he had was stronger than the cops’ guns.”

After gunshots began to be heard, a cafeteria worker who had just served chicken tacos to 75 third-graders said a woman shouted into the dining room, “Code black. This is not an exercise!”

Staff didn’t know what “code black” meant, but they closed blinds, locked doors and escorted students behind a stage, said the worker, who spoke on condition not to remain anonymous to avoid publicity. Some employees then fled to the kitchen.

In the nearly half hour after the first officers followed Ramos into the house, up to 19 were piled in the hallway, according to authorities.

Meanwhile, students and teachers tried to get out from other parts of the building, some climbing out the windows with the help of the police.

Cazares isn’t sure when he arrived at the scene, but when he did, he saw about five officers helping people escape. He watched closely to see if Jacklyn, who he later said loved gymnastics, singing and dancing, was among them.

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About 15 to 20 minutes after reaching the school, he said he saw officers with heavy shields for the first time.

In the chaos, he felt that time “went by both so quickly and so slowly.”

But he added, “Things could have turned out a lot differently from what I’ve seen.”

It was the same for other parents. One viewer recalled a woman yelling at officers, “Get in there! Go in there!”

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At 12:03, a student Called 911 and whispered that she was in the classroom with the shooter.

Minutes later, the Uvalde School District posted on Facebook that all campuses would be locked down, but that “students and staff are safe in the buildings. The buildings are safe.”

The student called 911 again minutes after her first call to say there were multiple deaths, and then called back soon after and said eight or nine students were still alive.

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Thirty-four minutes elapsed from the time of the last call to the moment a US Border Patrol tactical team used a school employee’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the shooter.

An open door had let him in. A locked door kept him inside and the police outside.

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The police didn’t break through the classroom faster because the commander in the building – the School District Chief of Police, Pete Arredondo — believed the situation had turned from an active shooting to a hostage situation, said Steven McCraw, the chief of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Officials from other agencies urged the school’s police chief to let them move in because children were at risk, according to two police officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. McCraw said gunfire was “sporadic” most of the time officers waited in the hallway, and investigators don’t know if any children died during that time.

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“It was the wrong decision,” McCraw said.

Arredondo could not be reached for comment. No one answered the door of his home Friday, and he did not respond to a phone message left at the county’s police headquarters.

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The loss of so many young lives and the admission of mistakes by the police have cast even some Second Amendment supporters in the Texas community into questioning a refrain used by the state’s Republican leaders in the wake of this and other mass shootings: “What stops armed bad guys are armed good guys.”

Cazares, a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter, said he shyed away from politics – but added that he believed there should be stricter gun laws, including better background checks. He called selling the type of gun the attacker was using to an 18-year-old “kinda ridiculous”.

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Cazares left the school before officers killed Ramos at 12:50 p.m. He rushed to the hospital because his niece said she saw Jacklyn in an ambulance.

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The whole family soon gathered there and pressed hospital staff for information for nearly three hours. Eventually, a pastor, a police officer, and a doctor met with them.

“My wife asked the question, ‘Is she alive or is she dead?'” Cazares said. “They said, ‘No, she’s gone.'”

When he was finally able to see his daughter’s body, Cazares swore that her death would not be in vain.

He later fought back tears as he reflected on his daughter’s final moments.

“She might be lively,” he said. “It kind of comforts us that she would be one of the ones who was brave and tried to help as much as possible.”

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press journalists Jim Vertuno and Robert Bumsted in Uvalde, Mike Balsamo in Washington, and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this report.

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More on the shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/30/a-dads-anguish-outside-texas-school-while-shooting-unfolded/ A father’s anxiety outside of school in Texas while filming unfolded

Sarah Y. Kim

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