Frustration with the police response to the May 24 Robb Elementary School massacre in Texas reached a fever pitch after startling new information was revealed Tuesday. Heavily armed officers waited outside the classroom door nearly an hour before finally confronting the gunman.
An 18-year-old murdered 19 children and two teachers, and evidence increasingly suggests some of the victims may have been saved.
One officer got a call from his wife inside the classrooms who told him she was bleeding to death. Another officer’s daughter was inside. A Halligan bar used for forced entry to locked or barred doors was available, and many officers were anxious to go in.
Documents and video reviewed this week show a much more specific timeline than previously known. Officers were in the school hallway near the adjoining classrooms much earlier than previously thought, and were also better armed.
Video reviewed by the Austin-American Statesman and KVUE-TV shows 11 officers entered the building just three minutes after the first shots were fired. The gunman fired on the officers as they approached the rooms and they retreated to a nearby hallway.
Col. Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, gave testimony to a state Senate hearing on the massacre Tuesday. He called the police response an “abject failure” and said there were enough officers to enter the classroom within three minutes.
He said officer’s lives were put ahead of the lives of the children.
A ballistic shield was on site within 19 minutes of the first shots, and officers had three more a full 30 minutes before breaching the door.
Adding to the frustration is conflicting evidence on the door to classrooms 111 and 112. School district Police Chief Pete Arrendondo initially said the doors were locked and a steel jamb was wedged in. He said he had difficulty finding a classroom key.
It is now known that the door could not be locked from the inside.
After the initial approach to the adjoining classrooms was met with gunfire, evidence shows it was over an hour before officers reapproached. Reportedly, no one tried to just open the door.
At a public hearing held by the Uvalde school district Monday, one of the speakers was 16-year-old Lyliana Garcia. She is the daughter of teacher Irma Garcia and Jose Garcia. Her mother was killed in the massacre and her father died two days later from a heart attack.
Garcia told the gathering that her seventh-grade sister cried while saying that “my mom died protecting her students, but who was protecting my mom?”