AUSTIN, Texas — Heavily armed officers delayed confronting a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, for more than an hour even though supervisors at the scene had been told that some trapped with him in two elementary school classrooms needed medical treatment, a new review of video footage and other investigative material shows. Instead, the documents show, they waited for protective equipment to lower the risk to law enforcement officers.
The school district police chief, who was leading the response to the May 24 shooting, appeared to be agonizing over the length of time it was taking to secure the shields that would help protect officers when they entered and to find a key for the classroom doors, according to law enforcement documents and video gathered as part of the investigation reviewed by The New York Times.
The chief, Pete Arredondo, and others at the scene became aware that not everyone inside the classrooms was already dead, the documents showed, including a report from a school district police officer whose wife, a teacher, had spoken to him by phone from one of the classrooms to say she had been shot.
who said that some had been shot but were still alive.
Among the revelations in the documents: The gunman, Salvador Ramos, had a “hellfire” trigger device meant to allow a semiautomatic AR-15-style rifle to be fired more like an automatic weapon; some of the officers who first arrived at the school had long guns, more firepower than previously known; and Chief Arredondo learned the gunman’s identity while inside the school and attempted in vain to communicate with him by name through the closed classroom doors.
But with two officers who initially approached the door shot at and grazed, Chief Arredondo appeared to have decided that quickly breaching the classrooms without shields and other protection would have led to officers possibly being killed. He focused instead on getting other children out of the school while waiting for additional protection equipment.
The response by the police at Robb Elementary School is now the subject of overlapping investigations by the Texas state police and the U.S. Justice Department. It was the subject of a closed-door hearing at the State Capitol in Austin on Thursday that featured the director of the state police, Steven McCraw.
apparently not fully aware that he had given the go-ahead after holding officers back for more than an hour, according to a person briefed on the team’s response by a federal agent involved in the tactical effort. Amid the confusion and frustration in the hallway, the agent believed that the team was taking the initiative on its own to go into the classrooms.