Uvalde, TX – Authorities are scrambling to nail down a timeline of the Uvalde elementary school massacre amid accusations police took too long to go into Robb Elementary School when they knew there was an active shooter inside.
Videos have been posted to social media that showed parents screaming and having to be held back by police, but assertions that those officers were waiting to enter didn’t consider that there were already officers inside the perimeter attempting to breach the room where the killer was barricaded.
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were injured during the attack, Forbes reported.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a press conference on Wednesday that the 18-year-old gunman sent a series of Facebook messages beginning at 11 a.m. on May 24, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The first post was to the point of he said, ‘I’m going to shoot my grandmother,’” Abbott said. “The second post was, ‘I shot my grandmother.’”
“I’m going to shoot an elementary school,” the suspect wrote at 11:15 a.m.
Investigators said that after shooting his 66-year-old grandmother, Celia Gonzales, in her face at her residence, the shooter fled in her vehicle and crashed near the school, the Los Angeles Times reported.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, DPS South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon said the crash occurred at 11:28 a.m.
“He had just shot his grandmother in the face,” Director Escalon said. “She’s alive. She’s stable at this point.”
The suspect got out of the passenger side of his grandmother’s wrecked truck with a long rifle and a bag that investigators later discovered was filled with ammunition.
According to Juan Carranza, a local resident who lives just across the street from Robb Elementary School, the suspect opened fire on two people outside a nearby funeral home after the crash, Forbes reported.
Neither citizen was injured in the attack.
Director Escalon confirmed Carranza’s account during the press conference on Thursday.
The gunman headed to the school and hopped a fence before he began shooting at the school building from the parking lot.
Contrary to statements made by DPS Director Steve McCraw, the shooter was not confronted by a school district police officer – or anyone else – between the time he shot his grandmother and the time he entered Robb Elementary School at 11:40 a.m., Director Escalon said.
“It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” Director Escalon said on Thursday. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially.”
In fact, no law enforcement officers were present at the school at all when the shooter arrived, he said.
Director Escalon said the gunman entered the west side of the school using a door that may have been unlocked and fired “multiple rounds” inside the building.
That portion of the attack was captured by security cameras, he noted.
Director Escalon said the shooter fired off over 25 rounds just after entering the building.
Independent School District Police Department (ISD) and Uvalde Police Department (UPD) officers entered the building four minutes later.
“They hear gunfire. They take rounds. They move back [to] get cover,” Director Escalon said. “They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving.”
The officers immediately called for “additional resources,” such as tactical teams, specialty equipment, body armor, negotiators, and “precision riflemen,” he said.
“So, during the time that they’re making those calls to bring in help…they’re also evacuating personnel…students, teachers. There’s a lot going on,” the director explained.
The shooter barged into one of the classrooms through an open door, locking the heavy-duty door behind him, and barricaded himself in the room, Forbes reported.
The 19 children and two teachers killed in the attack were all in a fourth-grade classroom at the time of the shooting, the DPS said on Wednesday, according to the New York Post.
Officials said the classroom connected to a second classroom, MassLive reported.
Police broke windows throughout the building in order to evacuate students and staff members, CNN reported.
Negotiators attempted to communicate with the gunman at some point, but he would not respond, according to Director Escalon.
U.S. Border Patrol tactical teams arrived about an hour later.
They were able to make entry into the classroom, where they shot and killed the gunman with the assistance of an Uvalde County deputy and UPD officers.
The situation then turned into a “rescue operation,” Director Escalon said.
Parents outside the school were seen arguing with officers and pleading with them to go inside the building as the shooting occurred, but officials said additional officers were already inside the building at the time.
Details regarding how long the tactical unit was at the scene prior to them gaining access to the room have not been released, Forbes reported.
Director McCraw said on Wednesday that he did not have “a particular timeline” regarding how much time elapsed between when the shooter arrived at the school and when he was fatally shot by the tactical team, but estimated it to be 40 minutes to an hour, Forbes reported.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” Director McCraw said, according to the Associated Press. “They did engage immediately. They did contain [the shooter] in the classroom.”
However, Director McCraw already released false details about the school resource officer and there’s reason to question his timeline.
On Thursday, DPS Spokesperson Lieutenant Chris Olivares said the period of time Director McCraw referenced may have actually been the time period that elapsed between when the gunman shot his grandmother prior to the attack and when he was killed by the tactical team – not the period of time between when he entered the school and when he was shot, according to CNN.
“Right now, we do not have an accurate or confident timeline to provide to say the gunman was in the school for this period,” Lt. Olivares told CNN. “We want to provide factual information as opposed to just providing timelines that are preliminary.”
Lt. Olivares reiterated that law enforcement officers immediately jumped into action when they arrived at the scene.
Some went inside, some pulled children from windows, some came under fire, and some established and maintained a perimeter.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said his agency’s tactical officers entered the building without hesitation and stacked up behind an agent with a shield immediately after they arrived at the scene, the Associated Press reported.
“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Chief Ortiz said.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident said the tactical team was stymied by the classroom door and had to wait for a school staff member with a key to arrive so they could make entry, the Associated Press reported.
While these events were transpiring inside the building, parents gathered outside the school became upset that the officers who were positioned outside weren’t heading inside to stop the shooter.
Some of them raised the idea of storming the school themselves, the Associated Press reported.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” Javier Cazares suggested, according to the Associated Press. “More could have been done…They were unprepared.”
Cazares’ fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was among those killed in the attack.
*BREAKING* Robb Elementary School shooting. Uvalde Texas. This video shows the chaos outside of the school where parents were trying to find their children.#Uvalde #RobbElementary #SchoolShooting pic.twitter.com/yx97i6Bh9w
— TheFamily'sSoup TV (@FamilysSoupTV) May 25, 2022
Ernest “Chip” King, a firefighter who responded to the scene, said some of the parents were able to push past police and started breaking windows and pulling children out, the New York Post reported.
When questioned by CNN about why parents were stopped from trying to storm the school, Lt. Olivarez explained that it was an “volatile…active shooter” situation.
“We’re trying to preserve any further loss of life,” the lieutenant said. “As much as they want to go into that school, we cannot have individuals go into that school, especially if they’re not armed.”
UPD Chief Daniel Rodriguez released a statement Thursday expressing his sympathy and condolences to the victims’ families and praising his officers for displaying “the upmost commitment to our community during this difficult time.”
“It is important for our community to know that our Officers responded within minutes alongside Uvalde CISD Officers,” Chief Rodriguez wrote. “Responding UPD Officers sustained gun-shot wounds from the suspect. Our entire department is thankful that the officers did not sustain any life threatening injuries.”
The chief said he knows that the public wants details and answers about what occurred, and that those answers will never “come fast enough during this trying time.”
“Rest assured that with the completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can,” Chief Rodriguez wrote. “I know words will never ease the pain that we are all suffering, but I hope you will join me in taking some solace in knowing that the pain comes from the fact that we all have such deep love for all the victims who have been taken from us, those who are recovering, and those who only time and love will continue to heal.”
Texas Rangers are leading the investigation with the assistance of the ATF, FBI, CBP, Border Patrol, and the Uvalde County District Attorney’s Office, among others, Director Escalon said.