Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified before state legislators today that the police response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was an "abject failure" and said he strongly believed that the door to the classroom, which police officers waited outside of for more than an hour, was unlocked.
The statements were the strongest condemnations yet by Texas state law enforcement of the police response at Uvalde and further indication that an inexcusable cascade of poor decisions left two classrooms of children and their teachers at the mercy of the gunman.
McCraw called the decision to treat the shooter as a barricaded suspect an "abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the past two decades."
McCraw singled out Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, whom he identified as the on-scene commander at the incident: "The only thing stopping a 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."
"The officers had weapons. The children had none," McCraw said. "The officers had body armor. The children had none. The officers had training. The subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes, and 8 seconds. That's how long children waited and the teachers waited in Room 111 to be rescued."
McCraw's testimony comes on the heels of reporting by multiple Texas news outlets that contradict Arredondo's narrative of the May 24 mass shooting that left 19 elementary school students and two teachers dead. Arredondo said in a recent interview with The Texas Tribune that he didn't consider himself to be the on-scene commander and that officers waited outside the door because they were outgunned and lacked breaching tools or keys to open the doors.
However, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reviewed hallway footage of the incident and reported that officers arrived with a ballistic shield and rifles 19 minutes after the gunman entered the school. They also had a breaching tool, called a Halligan bar. The Texas Tribune reported that none of the security footage it reviewed shows officers checking the door or attempting to unlock it.
"I have great reasons to believe it was never secured," McCraw testified about the door. "How about trying the door and seeing if it's locked?"
McCraw testified today that police could have stopped the shooter within three minutes.
The reality of the massacre, coming out in dribs and drabs, has moved so far away from the original police narrative that public officials' older comments now read as farcical. Take Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot's comments from May 25, a day after the mass shooting.
"The reality is, as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse," Abbot said. "The reason it was not worse is that law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives. And it is a fact that because of their quick response, getting on the scene of being able to respond to the gunman and eliminating the gunman, they were able to save lives."
Abbot later said he was misled about the events.
As Reason reported Monday, state and local agencies in Texas, ranging from the governor's office to the City of Uvalde, have geared up to fight the scores of public records requests filed by media outlets seeking more information on the police response to the shooting.
McCraw testified that the police response at Uvalde "set our profession back a decade." If agencies keep trying to shift blame and bury the truth about that failure, they won't have a reputation left to salvage.