Multiple police officers stood in a hallway at Robb Elementary School armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield within 19 minutes of a gunman arriving at the campus, according to documents reviewed by the Austin American-Statesman, a devastating new revelation deepening questions about why police didn’t act faster to stop the shooter who killed 19 children and two teachers last month.
The series of revelations, which began the same week as the May 24 mass killing, has left the impression of a bumbling law enforcement response.
The newspaper cited documents, including school surveillance and police body camera video, from unidentified investigators of the May 24 massacre. The information is to be presented to a public Texas Senate hearing in Austin on Tuesday. Investigators say the latest information indicates officers had more than enough firepower and protection to take down the gunman long before they finally did, the newspaper reported.
The timeline the American-Statesman reported from the documents included footage from inside the school that showed the 18-year-old gunman casually entering a rear door at 11:33 a.m., walking to a classroom and immediately spraying gunfire before barricading himself. Video showed 11 officers entering the school three minutes later, the newspaper reported.
School district police Chief Pete Arredondo called the Uvalde Police Department landline and reported that their suspect had “shot a lot” with an AR-15-style rifle and outgunned the officers at the school, who he said were armed only with pistols, the newspaper reported.
Four minutes later, at 11:44 a.m., body camera video recorded the sound of more gunshots. At 11:52 a.m., the first ballistic shield arrived as officers grew impatient to act. Arredondo struggled to find a key to the classroom door even though no one is believed to have tried opening the door, the newspaper reported.
Another officer with a ballistic shield arrived at 12:03 p.m., and another came with a shield two minutes later. About 30 minutes before officers finally breached the classroom door at 12:50 p.m., Arredondo is heard wondering aloud if the gunman could be shot through a window. Only at 12:46 p.m. did Arredondo tell the tactical team members to breach the door when ready, the newspaper reported.
Delays in the law enforcement response have been the focus of the federal, state and local investigation of the massacre and its aftermath. Questioned about the law enforcement response began days after the massacre. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on May 27 that Arredondo made “the wrong decision” when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as trapped fourth graders inside two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help.
Another legislative committee completed two days of scheduled closed-door hearings in Uvalde on Tuesday into those delays.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, who is chairing the committee investigating the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, had said at the start of the day’s session that the panel would hear more witness testimony from the Uvalde Police Department, as well as from another officer from the school district police and a member of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
After Burrows’ opening statements during the committee hearing in Uvalde, the committee went into executive session, blocking the public from hearing witness testimony. Burrows did not immediately emerge from the executive session Monday afternoon to make a statement on the day’s testimony.
Burrows said that testimony would continue on Tuesday in Austin. He said he hoped to provide information on when at least a preliminary report would be released to the public.