The performance of law enforcement during the mass school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday appears to have been even worse than previously known.
Early reporting that a school resource officer confronted alleged killer Salvador Ramos and engaged him in a gunfight was erroneous. At a press conference on Thursday, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Chris Olivarez clarified that no such confrontation took place and became increasingly irritated as journalists pressed him to explain the source of the misinformation.
Ramos entered through an unlocked door and faced no opposition until the police arrived several minutes later. He then became barricaded in a classroom, and the police failed to gain access and neutralize him for the next hour. It is likely that most of his victims—perhaps all of them—died in that classroom.
As that hour elapsed, desperately frightened parents arrived outside the school and were prevented from entering by law enforcement. Video footage obtained by The New York Times shows parents frantically begging the police to either enter the school and intervene or get out of the way so that they could rescue their kids themselves. Their pleas were in vain.
In fact, it took the police so long to get the situation under control that one mother who was 40 miles away when she learned about the shooting had enough time to drive to the school. According to The Wall Street Journal, police arrested and handcuffed her to prevent her from trying to save her children:
Ms. Gomez, a farm supervisor, said that she was one of numerous parents who began encouraging—first politely, and then with more urgency—police and other law enforcement to enter the school. After a few minutes, she said, federal marshals approached her and put her in handcuffs, telling her she was being arrested for intervening in an active investigation.
Ms. Gomez convinced local Uvalde police officers whom she knew to persuade the marshals to set her free. Around her, the scene was frantic. She said she saw a father tackled and thrown to the ground by police and a third pepper-sprayed. 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. She sprinted out of the school with them.
It's understandable that the police would not want to contend with the mayhem of parents storming the school themselves. But the apparent fact that they exerted considerable effort to keep parents at bay while failing to dislodge the shooter—who was actively murdering the kids inside the room with him—is disgusting. Any significant delay in gaining access to the shooter's classroom is hard to explain in light of the fact that Uvalde employs a SWAT Team for this very purpose.
These alleged failures bear some similarity to what transpired during the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. In that instance, School Resource Officer Scot Peterson hid instead of confronting the active shooter, Nikolas Cruz, who would ultimately kill 17 people. It was eventually revealed that Cruz—a disturbed teenager with a long history of violent, threatening, and anti-social behavior—was well-known to various law enforcement agencies, including the county sheriff's office and even the FBI.
The public deserves answers about exactly what transpired in Uvalde on Tuesday and why these questionable decisions were made. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D–Texas) has called for an investigation of the timeline: Any public official whose actions detracted from the urgent need to save the lives of all those kids should be held fully accountable.