With the shooter trapped in a classroom, the Uvalde police considered him "a barricaded subject" and believed "there were no more children at risk," Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a press conference on Friday. When pushed, he admitted that this assessment was wrong.
It was catastrophically wrong.
In fact, while 19 police officers dawdled in the hallway, the children trapped in the classroom with the shooter frantically cried for help and called 911, explicitly stating that some were dead but others were still alive. As that was happening, the Uvalde police not only stood back—they actively prevented a Border Patrol tactical unit from trying to enter the classroom.
According to the most recent timeline of the shooting, police entered the school around 11:35 a.m., just two minutes after the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos. By 12:03 p.m., at least 19 officers had gathered in the hallway near the classroom. The Border Patrol tactical unit arrived at the school between noon and 12:10 p.m., but the Uvalde Police Department prevented these officers from storming the classroom until just before 1:00 p.m.
"There were 19 officers in there," said McCraw. "In fact, there were plenty of officers to do whatever needed to be done, with one exception: The incident commander inside believed they needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that point."
That commander's erroneous belief that the active threat to children had passed is not merely wrong, it is obscene: The still-living children repeatedly alerted law enforcement to their dramatically unsafe situation.
— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) May 27, 2022
As sickening as it is, this is worth repeating: With the children wounded, bleeding, dying, and frantically—quietly—calling for help, the police stood by, waiting for even more assistance. They told the Border Patrol to hold off, and they actively restrained parents outside the school who begged them to help and even volunteered to do so themselves.
>> @ShimonPro's first Q at the press conference: "You say there were 19 officers gathered in the hallway or somewhere. What efforts were made to try and break through that door? You say it was locked. What efforts were the officers making?" The awful answer: "None at that time." pic.twitter.com/qM1liHrY2e
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 27, 2022
The public is still learning the truth of what actually happened on Tuesday. But based on what is currently known, it is hard to imagine a more appalling response from law enforcement. In fact, the word appalling doesn't even do this calamity justice. The police failed so completely, so utterly, so pathologically during those key 45 minutes—undoubtedly the longest 45 minutes of the fourth-graders' lives—that one wonders how such failure is even possible.