By DAN MCCALEB
THE CENTER SQUARE EXECUTIVE EDITOR
(The Center Square) — Texas law enforcement officers are facing widespread criticism over the response to a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that led to the deaths of 19 children and two teachers.
Neighbors and relatives of school students told various media outlets that officers were on the scene for as long as an hour before tactical teams arrived, entered the school and killed shooter Salvador Ramos.
A father of a Robb Elementary student told The Washington Post that he and at least four other fathers were near the school’s front door when they heard gunshots inside the building.
“There were five or six of us fathers, hearing the gunshots, and police officers were telling us to move back,” Javier Cazares told the Post. “We were saying, ‘Let’s go,’ because that is how worried we were and wanted to get our babies out.”
Victor Escalon, South Texas regional director in the Department of Public Safety, said at a Thursday news conference that the first officers on the scene did enter the school once they arrived.
“Four minutes (after Mr. Ramos entered the school and began shooting students), local police departments, the Uvalde Police Department, the Independent School District Police Department are inside, making entry,” Mr. Escalon said. “They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, get cover. And during that time, they approach where the suspect is at.”
After two officers were shot, Mr. Escalon said, law enforcement decided to start evacuating as many students and school personnel as they could.
About an hour after the shooting started, a tactical team from the U.S. Border Patrol arrived, entered the building and killed the suspect, he said.
Mr. Escalon added that Mr. Ramos entered the school through an unlocked door and was not confronted by a school resource officer, as has been reported by various media outlets.
Before the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, Mr. Ramos shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face at their home. The woman, who remains in critical condition at a local hospital, called police.
Mr. Ramos then got into his grandmother’s car and started driving toward the school. He crashed his car about a block-and-a-half away, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday. Mr. Ramos then exited the vehicle with a backpack and a semi-automatic rifle and walked toward the school.
Mr. Escalon said the backpack contained ammunition.
“He walks around. He sees two witnesses at the funeral home across the street from where he wrecked,” Mr. Escalon said. “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.”
Mr. Ramos then entered the school.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday “there was no meaningful forewarnings of this crime,” other than three Facebook messages the shooter posted shortly before the shootings occurred.
About 30 minutes before the school shooting, he posted, “‘First, I’m going to shoot my grandmother,'” Gov. Abbott said. Shortly thereafter, he posted, “‘I did shoot my grandmother,'” Gov. Abbott said. His third post was, “‘I’m going to shoot an elementary school,'” the governor said of the shooter.