A new report offers the clearest timeline yet of a mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, school in May that left 19 children and two teachers dead, and it addresses the many failures of law enforcement that contributed to the high number of casualties.
The report, released Wednesday by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program, which is based at Texas State University, describes a police response that was botched by poor tactical planning and by officers who put their safety above those who were being executed in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Here are some of the major takeaways:
A Missed Opportunity
Just minutes before 18-year-old killer Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary after crashing his vehicle nearby, an officer with the Uvalde Police Department spotted Ramos and was ready to engage himt with his own AR-15 rifle. But instead of firing on Ramos, the officer first asked his supervisor for permission, according to the report.
“However, the supervisor either did not hear or responded too late,” the report said. “The officer turned to get confirmation from his supervisor and when he turned back to address the suspect, [the suspect] had entered the west hallway unabated.”
As the report notes, the Uvalde officer would have been within his legal right to use deadly force without permission from his supervisor. However, the unnamed officer said he was concerned about hitting the school and potentially injuring students.
“Ultimately, the decision to use deadly force always lies with the officer who will use the force,” the report said. “If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired.”
Also mentioned in the report was another officer who drove right past Ramos in the school’s parking lot before Ramos entered the building. The report concludes that the officer was driving “at a high rate of speed” and did not spot the shooter.
“If the officer had driven more slowly or had parked his car at the edge of the school property and approached on foot, he might have seen the suspect and been able to engage him before the suspect entered the building,” the report said.
Loss Of Momentum
At 11:36 a.m., seven responding officers who had entered the building “correctly moved toward the active gunfire” coming from Ramos and had converged on Rooms 111 and 112, where Ramos was shooting children and teachers.
“As the officers approached the doors, the suspect began firing,” the report said. “This gunfire caused both teams of officers to retreat from the doors.”
The report from ALERRT, an active-shooter response training program for law enforcement, concludes that the officers should not have retreated and that their priority should have been to stop the killer even if they were in fear of their lives.
“We commend the officers for quickly entering the building and moving toward the sounds of gunfire,” the report said. “However, when the officers were fired at, momentum was lost. The officers fell back, and it took more than an hour to regain momentum and gain access to critically injured people.”
A Tactical Failure
In the more than an hour that followed after the first responding officers retreated from Ramos, a barrage of gear was collected for police officers as Ramos continued shooting children and adults in the classrooms.
The timeline from the report shows that at 11:52 a.m., a ballistics shield was given to officers. Then another ballistics shield arrived at 12:03 p.m. At 12:10 p.m., officers in the west hallway began distributing and putting on gas masks. Four minutes later, “CS gas canisters and launcher deliverable varieties are brought in,” according to the new timeline. (Law enforcement ultimately did not use the gas canisters). At 12:40 p.m., a fourth ballistics shield arrived for police. Less than a minute later, Ramos fired four shots in the classrooms.
Having officers stationed on opposite ends of the hallway created a potential crossfire situation, which could have led to officers shooting each other, according to the ALERRT report. More from the report:
“If the suspect had emerged from the classrooms, officers from both teams presumably would have opened fire resulting in a high likelihood of officers at either end of the hallway shooting officers at the other end. The teams should have quickly communicated, and officers at one end of the hallway should have backed out and redeployed to another position.”
Members of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Teams (BORTAC) moved within feet of the classrooms with two ballistics shields at 12:21 p.m. “However, no assault on the rooms was conducted,” the report concluded.
Instead, for more than 10 minutes, from 12:21 to 12:34 p.m., “a continuous conversation” took place between Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo and a Uvalde Police Department officer about the best approach.
“They also discussed who has the [classroom] keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead,” the report said.
The Unlocked Door
Throughout the ordeal, law enforcement officials, including Arredondo, expressed concern about breaching the door to Room 111. As the new timeline shows, at 12:47 p.m., a sledgehammer was brought to the scene so officers could breach what they believed was a locked door.
The door wasn’t locked, the report concluded.
“The assault team entered the room at 12:50:03, 1 hour, 11 minutes, and 26 seconds after the first responding officers took static positions,” the report said. “The assault team had keys that could unlock the door. It does not appear that any officer ever tested the doors to see if they were locked. As we described earlier, we do not believe the door to room 111 was locked.”
The report sheds new light on previously reported information about the unlocked door. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, previously said that not checking the door was an “abject failure” of law enforcement.
“The door was unsecured, and we’ve gone back and checked in our interviews, and [asked], ‘Did anybody touch the door and try it?’” McCraw testified last month. “Do you need a key? Well, one of the things they teach you in active shooter training: How about trying the door and seeing if it’s unlocked?”
“And, of course, no one had,” McCraw said at the time.
Wednesday’s report from ALERRT concluded that lives could have been saved if not for the numerous failures of law enforcement.
“While we do not have definitive information at this point, it is possible that some of the people who died during this event could have been saved if they had received more rapid medical care,” the report said.