From The Texas Newsroom:
As questions linger over law enforcement’s response time during the shooting in Uvalde on Tuesday that killed 21 people, Texas Department of Public Safety officers on Thursday offered little new information on how long it took officers to engage the gunman.
The 18-year-old gunman was reportedly inside the elementary school from 40 minutes to an hour before he was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who responded to call for backup. The shooter barricaded himself in a classroom and opened fire, authorities reported earlier.
In response to a reporter’s question about why officers were at the school for so long before they were able to enter the classroom, officer Victor Escalon, the regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety South, said he would “circle back” with reporters.
“We want to answer all your questions. We want to give you the why. That’s our job. So give us time,” he said.
Escalon did say Thursday that reports that the gunman was initially confronted by a school safety officer were not accurate.
“No, there was not an officer readily available,” he said.
Tony Plohetski, an investigative reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE News who has been in Uvalde this week, said that in very dynamic situations, it’s not entirely uncommon for certain details to change over the course of an investigation, “but this does seem more profound and more confusing.”
“I think one of the most challenging things is that as the people of Uvalde try to make sense of something that is so unfathomable, they really desire clear facts,” he said. “And unfortunately, there’s just a void of that right now.”
Escalon said the gunman was able to enter the school through an unlocked door and that a flurry of gunshots were fired in the first few minutes afterward but local law enforcement officers initially retreated after taking fire.
“Officers were there — the initial officers — as they received gunfire. They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving, but we have officers calling for additional resources,” Escalon said. “So during that time that they’re making those calls to bring in help to solve this problem and stop it immediately, they’re also evacuating personnel.”
The news conference came after reports that parents and others were pleading with officers to enter the school the morning of the shooting as they stood outside.
“One of the things that we are trying to really nail down is exactly when that was happening,” Plohetski said. “Was that happening while the gunman was still actively shooting inside the school? Was it in the immediate aftermath after the gunman maybe had been taken down and parents were trying to access the school to check on the welfare of their children? The timing, again, is just a little blurred.”
Plohetski said investigators are working on determining a timeline of events by studying radio traffic, as well as ballistic information to try to figure out what police officers fired and when.
The Associated Press reported that Juan Carranza saw people shouting: “Go in there! Go in there!” at the officers as he watched the scene unfold from his home across the street.
Escalon did not address those reports but said information is fluid, interviews and analysis are still being conducted, and updates will be provided to the press. The Department of Public Safety has planned another press conference for Friday morning in Uvalde.
It was also unclear if the shooter, who has been identified as Salvador Ramos, used furniture or any other type of barrier to obstruct entry into the classroom after he locked the door.