The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday entered the school building unobstructed, authorities said Thursday.
Contrary to information officials released earlier, the gunman was not confronted by a school police officer before entering Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, state Department of Public Safety South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon said Thursday.
The gunman walked into the west side of Robb Elementary at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday and started firing. Four minutes later, local and school police followed him inside, Escalon said.
“They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, get cover, and during that time, they approach where the suspect is at,” Escalon said.
As soon as the gunman entered, he walked 20 to 30 feet and turned right to walk another 20 feet before turning left and into a classroom, according to Escalon.
“Officers are there, the initial officers, they receive gunfire. They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving. But we have officers calling for additional resources, everyone that’s in the area,” Escalon said.
“During this time that they’re making those calls to bring in help to solve this problem and stop it immediately, they’re also evacuating personnel, when I say students, teachers. There’s a lot going on.”
The suspect had shot his grandmother and crashed his pickup truck at about 11:28 a.m. before walking to the school.
Escalon could not immediately explain how the suspect wasn’t stopped in the 12 minutes between the crash and campus entry.
“We got a crash and a man with a gun and then you have responding officers. That’s what it is, if that’s 12 minutes,” he said.
“At the end of the day our job is to report the facts and have those answers. We’re not there yet.”
In the time since the shooting, questions have been raised about the time that elapsed between when the shooter crashed his vehicle outside the school and when he was fatally shot by a Border Patrol officer inside the classroom he barricaded himself in to unleash terror.
State and federal law enforcement officials had said earlier that they don’t have a timeline yet on the precise sequence of events.
Some, especially witnesses who were at the scene, have accused officers of not acting quickly enough.
Video footage from outside the school Tuesday appears to show distressed parents and locals reacting to news of the shooting.
One woman is heard yelling: “Get in! Get in! What is the f—— deal?”
“They’re all in there, the cops aren’t doing s— except standing outside,” a man is heard saying. “You know they’re little kids, right? Little kids, they don’t know how to defend themselves.”
It’s not clear when the video was filmed or whether officers were inside the building at the time.
Questions about police response time
Asked if officers failed to act in a timely manner at the scene, Escalon declined to answer.
“That’s a tough question, that’s a tough question,” he said. “I don’t have enough information to answer that question just yet.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference Wednesday that the shooter was at the school for up to an hour before law enforcement breached the classroom.
“It’s going to be within, like 40 minutes within an hour,” McCraw said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the gunman entered the school through a back door, walked down two short hallways and came into two adjoining classrooms where he locked the door and sprayed bullets indiscriminately.
Officers from multiple units and agencies — including local police and a tactical team from U.S. Customs and Border Protection — arrived at the scene but couldn’t enter the classroom.
The door to the classroom finally was opened when the principal produced a master key, state and federal law enforcement officials said.
Robb Elementary serves second through fourth-grade students in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, about 75 miles from the Mexico border, home to a large Latino community.