Official: Girl told 911 ‘send the police now’ as cops waited
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week’s attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, “Please send the police now,” as officers waited in the hallway for more than 45 minutes, authorities said Friday.
The commander at the scene in Uvalde — the school district’s police chief — believed that 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms at Robb Elementary School and that children were no longer at risk, Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a contentious news conference.
“It was the wrong decision,” he said.
Friday’s briefing came after authorities spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about the 90 minutes that elapsed between the time Ramos entered the school and when U.S. Border Patrol agents unlocked the classroom door and killed him.
When the border agents were set to enter the room, there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway outside, McCraw said.
Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers inside the room, but his motive remains unclear, authorities said.
There was a barrage of gunfire shortly after Ramos entered the classroom where officers eventually killed him, but those shots were “sporadic” for much of the 48 minutes that officers waited in the hallway, McCraw said. He said investigators do not know if or how many children died during that time.
Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including a girl who pleaded: “Please send the police now,” McCraw said.
Questions have mounted over the amount of time it took officers to enter the school to confront the gunman.
It was 11:28 a.m. Tuesday when Ramos’ Ford pickup slammed into a ditch behind the low-slung Texas school and the driver jumped out carrying an AR-15-style rifle. Five minutes after that, authorities said, Ramos entered the school and found his way to the fourth-grade classroom where he killed the 21 victims.
But it wasn’t until 12:58 p.m. that law enforcement radio chatter said Ramos had been killed and the siege was over.
What happened in those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood near the edge of the town of Uvalde, has fueled mounting public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement’s response to Tuesday’s rampage.
According to the new timeline provided by McCraw, After crashing his truck, Ramos fired on two people coming out of a nearby funeral home, officials said.
Contrary to earlier statements by officials, a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived. When that officer did respond, he unknowingly drove past Ramos, who was crouched behind a car parked outside and firing at the building, McCraw said.
At 11:33 p.m., Ramos entered the school through a rear door that had been propped open and fired more than 100 rounds into a pair of classrooms, McCraw said.
Two minutes later, three local police officers arrived and entered the building through the same door, followed soon after by four others, McCraw said. Within 15 minutes, as many as 19 officers from different agencies had assembled in the hallway, taking sporadic fire from Ramos, who was holed up in a classroom.
Ramos was still inside at 12:10 p.m. when the first U.S. Marshals Service deputies arrived. They had raced to the school from nearly 70 miles away in the border town of Del Rio, the agency said in a tweet Friday.
But the commander inside the building — the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo — decided the group should wait to confront the gunman, on the belief that the scene was no longer an active attack, McCraw said.
The crisis came to an end at 12:50 after officers used keys from a janitor to open the classroom door, entered the room and shot and killed Ramos, he said.
Arredondo couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday. No one answered the door at his home and he didn’t reply to a phone message left at the district’s police headquarters.