Uvalde, Texas – Law enforcement officials faced questions and criticism on Thursday about how much time passed before they stormed a classroom at Uvalde Primary School and put an end to a gunman’s rampage that killed 19 children and two teachers.
Investigators also couldn’t say for certain whether a school district armed security officer outside Robb Elementary fired with the attacker, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, when he first arrived Tuesday.
The motive for the shooting — the deadliest school shooting in the country since Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago — continued to be investigated, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, which ended when a Border Patrol team rushed in and shot Ramo dead, frustrated bystanders prompted police officers to storm into the school, witnesses said.
“Get in there! Get in there!” Women shouted at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside his home across the street from the school.
Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said Wednesday that it had been 40 minutes to an hour since Ramos opened fire on school security officers before the tactical team fired on him.
But a department spokesman later said authorities could not give a solid estimate of how long the shooter was at the school.
“The bottom line was that law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They got involved straight away. They contained (Ramos) in the classroom.”
Meanwhile, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said border guards had trouble breaking down the classroom door and had to get an employee to open the room with a key. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in the attack, said he rushed to school when he heard about the shooting and arrived while police were still gathered outside.
Angered that the police didn’t show up, he brought up the idea of storming into the school with several other bystanders.
“Let’s just storm in because the cops aren’t doing what they’re supposed to,” he said. “We could have done more”
“They were caught off guard,” he added.
Carranza had witnessed Ramos drive his truck into a ditch in front of the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and fired at two people outside a funeral home, who ran away unharmed.
Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Public Safety Department told CNN that the school security officer was armed outside and that initial reports said he and Ramos exchanged gunfire. “But right now we’re trying to confirm that information,” Olivarez said.
After entering the school, Ramos barricaded himself in a classroom and began killing.
Carranza said officers should have entered the school earlier.
“There were more. There was only one of him,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, hundreds filled the stands at the city’s exhibition center for a vigil. Some cried. Some closed their eyes tightly and said silent prayers. Parents wrapped their arms around their children as speakers led prayers for healing.
Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother in their home.
Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was pottering in his yard when he heard the shots.
Ramos ran out the front door and across the yard to a truck parked in front of the house and sped away: “He spun, I mean fast,” sprayed gravel into the air, Gallegos said.
Ramos’ grandmother appeared covered in blood: “She says: ‘Berto, he did that. He shot me.’” She was taken to the hospital.
Gallegos said he heard no arguments before or after the shooting and was not aware of any history of bullying or abuse from Ramos, who he rarely saw.
Lorena Auguste was a substitute teacher at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary. Eventually she found out that the girl was fine.
But that evening her niece had a question.
“Why did they do this to us?” asked the girl. “We’re good kids. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
More on the Uvalde, Texas shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/26/police-face-questions-over-delays-in-storming-texas-school/ Police face questions over delays in Texas school storming