The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted Friday that it was the “wrong decision” for more than a dozen officers to wait outside a classroom door as a shooter killed children inside earlier this week.
“With the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision, it was the wrong decision, there was no excuse for that,” DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw told reporters.
The admission comes days after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
“Please send the police now,” a little girl begged in one of several 911 calls from children inside the classroom.
At least 19 police officers waited outside of the classroom door where the suspect was shooting because a commanding officer on scene believed it was a “barricaded subject” and not an active shooter. That commanding officer was later identified as Peter Arredondo, chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated School District.
“I wasn’t there, but I’m telling you from what we know,” McCraw told reporters. “When there’s an active shooter, the rules change, it’s no longer a barricaded subject, you don’t have time.”
More than 40 minutes passed from the time the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, entered the school to when he was eventually killed. During that time, children placed calls to 911 begging for help as operators could hear gunshots being fired in the background, McCraw said.
But police stood by, because Arredondo believed the gunman had barricaded himself and wanted to wait for a tactical team instead of engaging with the gunman.
“I wasn’t there,” McCraw repeated at the press conference, “but a decision was made that this was a barricaded subject, and that there was time to retrieve the keys and wait for a tactical team with equipment to breach the doors.”
“That was the thought process at that particular time,” McCraw added.
Outside of the school, parents pleaded with officers to go inside and confront the shooter.
“The police were doing nothing,” Angeli Rose Gomez, a mother with two children inside the school, told The Wall Street Journal. “They were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”
In one of the 911 calls that took place just after noon, a girl said 12 people in her classroom were dead but that eight to nine students were still alive. Minutes later, at 12:21 p.m., an operator could hear three shots fired in the background. Police outside the room still didn’t act, according to the new timeline provided by McCraw.
Police were eventually able to get keys from the school janitor to enter the classrooms, where they finally killed the gunman.