Uvalde, TX – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has determined the that the teacher who propped open the door to Robb Elementary School just minutes before a gunman used it to gain entry into the building had actually pulled the door closed when she saw the shooter approaching, but it failed to lock as intended.
DPS Director Steve McCraw initially said during a press conference on May 27 that the door the gunman used to access the west side of the building on May 24 had been propped open by a teacher at 11:27 a.m. that day, WPXI reported.
Investigators said the teacher propped the door open with a rock just one minute before the shooter crashed his vehicle near the school, according to CBS News.
But on Tuesday, officials said they determined the unidentified teacher actually closed the door behind her when she realized a shooter was on campus and that the door did not lock behind her as intended.
DPS Chief Communications Officer Travis Considine said the teacher propped the door open with a rock and headed outside shortly before the suspect crashed nearby, CBS News reported.
The teacher ran back into the building to grab her phone to call 911 about the crash, then walked back outside to place the call.
“She came back out while on her phone, she heard someone yell, ‘He has a gun!’, she saw him jump the fence and that he had a gun, so she ran back inside,” Officer Considine said.
“She kicked the rock away when she went back in,” Attorney Don Flanery said, according to CBS News. “She remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting. She thought the door would lock because that door is always supposed to be locked.”
Officer Considine said investigators have verified that the teacher did close the door behind her.
“The door did not lock. We know that much and now investigators are looking into why it did not lock,” he said, according to CBS News.
DPS further confirmed on Tuesday that the on-site commander at the time of the massacre, Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District Police Department (UCISDPD) Chief Pete Arredondo, has not responded to investigators’ requests for a follow-up interview, WFAA reported.
“The Uvalde Police Department and Uvalde CISD Police have been cooperating with investigators,” DPS said. “The chief of the Uvalde CISD Police provided an initial interview but has not responded to a request for a follow-up interview with the Texas Rangers that was made two days ago.”
Chief Arredondo, who was elected to the Uvalde City Council just three weeks prior to the deadly shooting, was sworn into his new position quietly on Tuesday after a formal swearing-in ceremony was cancelled.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said the decision to cancel the ceremony portion of the swearing-in was made in order to allow the city to keep its focus on the victims of the school shooting, Newsweek reported.
“Our focus Tuesday is on our families who lost loved ones,” McLaughlin said in a statement on Monday, according to the El Paso Times. “We begin burying our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week’s murders at Robb Elementary School.”
During a press conference on May 27, Director McCraw released new details about the shooting, 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.
Director McCraw identified the on-scene commander as Chief Arredondo.
“The on-scene commander considered a barricaded subject and that there was time and there were no children at risk,” Director McCraw said. “Obviously, you know, based on the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was, in fact, still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject.”
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were injured during the May 24 attack, Forbes reported.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
During that delayed response, children inside the classroom repeatedly called 911, pleading for police to save them, USA Today reported.
Cell phone footage released by ABC News on Tuesday appeared to capture police radio transmissions from a 911 dispatcher during the school shooting.
“Child is advising he is in the room, full of victims,” the dispatcher alerted at one point. “Full of victims at this moment.”
The dispatcher provided another update minutes later, saying there were “eight to nine children” inside.
It is unclear whether or not the on-scene commander was aware of those transmissions.
Director McCraw said that the on-scene commander 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.
Negotiators attempted to communicate with the gunman at some point, but he would not respond, according to DPS South Texas Regional Director Victor 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.
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 Chief Arredondo also held back U.S. Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers from engaging the gunman prior to the breach, WPXI reported.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced it would be conducting a review of the law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School shooting.