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DPS: Commander At Robb Elementary Held Officers Back, Treated Incident As Barricaded Suspect

Uvalde, TX – Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw released new details about the Robb Elementary School massacre on Friday, to include acknowledging that the commander at the scene made the “wrong decision” by treating the situation as a barricaded suspect instead of an active shooter.

Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were injured during the May 24 attack, Forbes reported.

Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.

Director McCraw said during a press conference on May 27 that the door the gunman used to access the west side of the building on Tuesday morning had been propped open by a teacher at 11:27 a.m. that day, WPXI reported.

Investigators did not explain what reason the unnamed teacher might have had for leaving the door open.

During a press conference one day earlier, DPS South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon said the shooter crashed his grandmother’s truck near the school at 11:28 a.m., shortly after he shot her in her face at her home.

According to investigators, the teacher propped the door open just one minute prior to the crash.

The suspect got out of the passenger side of his grandmother’s wrecked truck with a rifle and a bag that investigators later discovered was filled with ammunition, Director Escalon said.

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 initially made by Director McCraw, the shooter did not encounter a police officer between the time he shot his grandmother and the time he entered Robb Elementary School, Director Escalon said.

“It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” Director Escalon explained on Thursday. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially.”

In fact, he said no law enforcement officers were present at the school at all when the shooter arrived.

Director McCraw said a Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) officer responded to reports of gunfire and began pursuing someone he believed was the suspect, but that person actually wound up being a teacher, WPXI reported.

“In doing so, he drove right by the suspect who was hunkered down by a vehicle, where he began shooting at the school,” the director said.

Director Escalon said on Thursday that the shooter entered the school at 11:40 a.m. and that police arrived at 11:44 a.m.

Director McCraw said on Friday that the shooter walked into the building at 11:33 a.m. and that police arrived at 11:35 a.m., WPXI reported.

It is unclear which timeline is accurate.

Director McCraw said the shooter barged into one of the classrooms through an open door and opened fire immediately after entering the building.

He said the shooting began in either room 111 or 112, which were adjoining.

Three Uvalde Police Department (UPD) officers entered the school building at 11:35 a.m., Director McCraw said.

Director Escalon said on Thursday that the officers immediately came under fire when they entered the school.

“They hear gunfire. They take rounds. They move back [to] get cover,” he 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,” Director Escalon 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,” he added.

Meanwhile, the gunman locked himself inside the classroom and barricaded himself.

Director McCraw said on Friday that there were 19 officers waiting in the hallway outside the classroom by 12:03 p.m.

Members of the U.S. Border Patrol tactical team began arriving at 12:15 p.m.

Director McCraw said that the on-scene commander, who he later identified as UCISD Chief Pete Arredondo, determined the incident had “transitioned” into a “barricaded subject situation” as opposed to an active shooter situation and believed the children were not at risk.

During the terrifying ordeal, one little girl inside the classroom called 911 repeatedly, begging dispatchers to send police, WPXI reported.

Negotiators attempted to communicate with the gunman at some point, but he would not respond, according to Director Escalon.

Officers waited for a janitor to bring keys to the classroom so they could make entry, which occurred at 12:50 p.m., WPXI reported.

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.

Some officers went inside, some pulled children from windows, some came under fire, and some established and maintained a perimeter, DPS Spokesperson Lieutenant Chris Olivares said on Thursday, according to CNN.

Director McCraw said the officers heard gunfire before they breached the room and fatally shot the suspect.

He said that with “the benefit of hindsight,” he can say the on-site commander made a grave mistake by not storming the room sooner, NBC News reported.

“Of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Period,” Director McCraw said. “There were children in that classroom that were still at risk.”

The director said the on-site incident commander also held back U.S. Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers from engaging the gunman prior to the breach, WPXI reported.

The shooter fired off nearly 150 rounds between the time he entered the school and the time he was shot, according to WPXI.

A total of 315 rounds – 142 of which were spent – were found inside the school, Director McCraw said.

Police said the gunman had purchased a total of 1,657 rounds of ammunition.

Investigators said they recovered 58 magazines at the school in the wake of the shooting, including three that the gunman had on his body, five that were on the ground, one that was in his weapon, and eight that were inside the classroom and the adjoining room, NBC News reported.

Another 32 magazines were found outside the building on school property, WPXI reported.

Fifteen were in the crashed truck, and two more were found at the suspect’s residence, according to police.

Director McCraw said there were 35 spent law enforcement cartridges found inside the school.

Director Escalon said the Texas Rangers are leading the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the Uvalde County District Attorney’s Office, among others.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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