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.
But now, a police commander is adding fuel to the fire with a claim that officers could have actually engaged with, and stopped, the 18-year-old gunman within three minutes at the Robb Elementary School.
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, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the West building, there was 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 room 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 said 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 railed during testimony before a state Senate committee on Tuesday.
Parents and other critics have blasted police first on the scene for refusing to more quickly engage the shooter. 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 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 continued.
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 paper.
TX DPS Director Steve McCraw:
'The officers had weapons … [they] had body armor. The children had none.'
“response to the Uvalde shooting was an ‘abject failure,’ as the on-scene commander waited for things like a key ‘that was never needed.’pic.twitter.com/WT1nWR2B4i
— 🇺🇦Skyleigh Heinen🇺🇸 (@Sky_Lee_1) June 21, 2022