Law enforcement officials in the US state of Texas have come under criticism for the amount of time that elapsed before they stormed into a primary school classroom to stop a gunman’s rampage that killed 19 children and two teachers.
Videos circulating on social media on Thursday showed desperate parents shouting at police to enter Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde as the shooting was unfolding, with some trying to approach the building themselves before being restrained by officers.
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In one video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking through yellow police tape and yelling at officers to go into the building.
“It’s already been an hour, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Ledezma said during the video.
Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult. One woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s shooting in there.”
“We got guys going in to get kids,” one officer is heard telling the crowd. “They’re working.”
The motive remains unknown, with authorities saying the 18-year-old gunman had no known criminal or mental health history.
The attack also has reignited debate about gun laws in the US, with President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats pushing for new restrictions despite resistance from Republicans.
“We must ask when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done to – if not completely stop – fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday.
Biden said on Thursday that he and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde on Sunday “to grieve with the community that lost 21 lives in the horrific elementary school shooting”.
‘They were unprepared’
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders. “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
He added, “They were unprepared.”
The siege ended when a US Border Patrol team burst in and fatally shot the gunman.
Victor Escalon, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters on Thursday afternoon that reports the gunman had engaged an armed district school officer were inaccurate. “He walked in uninterrupted initially,” Escalon said during a news conference.
Escalon provided a new, detailed timeline of what occurred on Tuesday, according to the information he said was available so far.
He said that at 11:28am local time (16:28 GMT) the suspect crashed a pick-up truck that he took from his grandmother. “He had just shot his grandmother in the face,” Escalon said. Citing witnesses, he said the suspect jumped out of the passenger side of the vehicle with a rifle and a bag that officials later found out contained ammunition.
“He walks around and sees two witnesses at the funeral home across the street from where he wrecked [the vehicle]. He engages, and fires towards them. He continues walking towards the school. He climbs a fence. Now he’s in the parking lot shooting at the school multiple times,” Escalon said.
At 11:40am (16:40 GMT), the suspect walked into Robb Elementary on the building’s west side. Escalon said it appeared the school was unlocked, but authorities are still investigating. “According to reports, video we have obtained from outside [and] inside, multiple rounds, numerous rounds are discharged in the school,” he said.
Escalon said officers with the Uvalde police department and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District made entry into the building four minutes after the shooter got in, but they were forced to take cover after the gunman fired towards them.
The attacker then barricaded himself into a fourth-grade classroom, where he shot the students and teachers. Approximately an hour passed before a US Border Patrol tactical team breached the classroom and fatally shot the gunman, Escalon confirmed.
“That’s a tough question,” Escalon said when asked if officers should have gone in sooner, adding that authorities would offer more information as the investigation proceeds.