Police officers responding to a mass shooting at an elementary school in the town of Uvalde, Texas, last month waited 77 minutes before the shooter was stopped, and did not attempt to enter the room where the massacre was taking place, despite having keys and the tools to do so, the San Antonio Express News reported on Saturday. The police response to the shooting has been sharply criticized.
Salvador Ramos, 18, killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde last month, before he was shot dead by a Border Patrol agent. Amid conflicting stories, the Texas Department of Safety said in the days after the shooting that officers believed Ramos was “barricaded” inside a classroom and were unable to enter to stop his deadly rampage.
Citing law enforcement sources and surveillance camera footage, the San Antonio Express News claimed that Ramos was able to enter classroom 111 through an unlocked door, and then enter classroom 112 through an internal door, which he could not lock.
The footage reportedly shows officers following Ramos into the building within two minutes, before retreating after the gunman opened fire on them. Pedro Arredondo, a school district police chief, said earlier that he was waiting for tactical gear and a set of school keys and was holding officers back from the classroom in the meantime.
However, while Arredondo described trying one key after another on a classroom adjacent to the one in which Ramos was shooting, the San Antonio Express News said that he was actually trying other nearby classrooms in a bid to locate a master key.
The new report claims that his officers had access to a door-breaching tool known as a Halligan all along, while it is unclear whether the door to classroom 111 was even locked, as Arredondo claimed earlier.
In total, 77 minutes passed from when police officers entered the school and when an off-duty Border Patrol agent accessed the classroom and shot Ramos dead.
DPS and Uvalde city officials have refused to clarify whether the classroom door was locked or unlocked, and the DPS has changed its story several times on whether the exterior door to the school was left open, locked, or failed to lock.
Parents who tried to enter the school during this time say that officers outside “did nothing” to stop the slaughter inside, and say that they themselves were handcuffed by federal marshals when they tried to intervene.