Doors to classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde are designed to lock automatically when they’re closed. But according to a report from the San Antonio Express-News, a source close to the investigation into the school shooting says there was a malfunction with the door that led to the two classrooms the gunman entered on May 24 – and law enforcement never tried to open the door while the Uvalde ISD police chief waited for a master key.
Brian Chasnoff, an investigative reporter for the Express-News, joined the Texas Standard to share his latest findings on the police response to the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You report the classroom doors at Robb Elementary School are designed to lock automatically. How did a gunman get in in the first place, if that’s the case?
Brian Chasnoff: The assumption by law enforcement at this point is that he got in because the door was not working properly. And this is from surveillance footage that law enforcement has reviewed showing the gunman easily entering that classroom. That is where the belief comes from, that this door might not have been locked the entire time that police were waiting to go in. In any case, they had a tool called a halligan that could have broken in through a locked door, even if it was locked.
How would you describe a Halligan? It’s sort of like a bar that firefighters use to gain entry.
Exactly. It’s like an ax.
Now, when we’re talking about the doors that don’t appear to be locked, are we talking about the door or doors to the classroom where the gunman was inside? Not the door in the hallway?
That is correct. Although, there appears to have been a door malfunction on that door as well, the exterior door in the back of the school that the gunman entered initially. Our understanding from the narrative that law enforcement has put forward at this point is that a teacher did close that door and that door was also supposed to automatically lock, but did not.
These locked doors have been such a part of the narrative. What have we been told about police response concerning the doors up until now? And let’s focus on the classroom doors first.
Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde CISD police chief who was the on-scene commander during the massacre, he gave one interview to the Texas Tribune a couple of weeks ago, and he told the Texas Tribune that he tried to open those doors and they were locked. Now, what my reporting over the weekend showed was that the surveillance footage does not show anyone trying to open those doors, contrary to what Arredondo told the Tribune. So it appears that police never even checked to see if the door was locked.
Does that make sense? Why wouldn’t officers check and see if the door was locked? Does that even add up?
I think the whole country is in shock right now, in a state of disbelief and outrage over how this unfolded. And no, I mean, it does not immediately make sense why police would not immediately try to go in. And that’s based on policing principles that have been standard since the Columbine massacre that occurred decades ago. So this is why this is such a big story right now and why there’s almost universal outrage and shock that they didn’t go in. They didn’t check the doors, apparently. They had all the firepower and the equipment to take on this gunman. And they didn’t go in.
How does that square with what we’re hearing? We were just talking with Terri Langford about the search for a master key – that seems to have been something that held up law enforcement for quite a while.
It’s it seems absurd, you know, that there would be such a long delay searching for a master key. Arredondo told the Tribune, and my source told me as well, that Arredondo, the school district police chief, was trying a series of keys in other doors to try to find a master key. So he wasn’t even trying these keys in the door to the classrooms where the gunman was with these children.