A top Texas security official acknowledged on Friday that police were wrong to delay storming the classroom in Uvalde where a gunman was holed up with dead and wounded children, AFP reported.
Police in the small town have come under intense criticism since Tuesday’s mass shooting over why it took well over an hour to neutralize the gunman, who ultimately killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.
“From the benefit of hindsight… it was the wrong decision, period,” Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw told an emotional news conference on Friday, at which his voice broke repeatedly as he was assailed by questions over the delay.
“From what we know, we believe there should have been an entry as soon as you can,” McCraw said, adding, “If I thought it would help, I’d apologize.”
McCraw revealed in harrowing detail that a series of emergency calls were made from inside the two adjourning classrooms where the gunman was barricaded, begging for police help — as desperate parents outside pleaded with officers to go in.
But in seeking to explain the delay, he also said the on-scene commander believed at the time that the 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos was in there alone, with no survivors, after his initial assault.
“I’m not defending anything, but you go back in the timeline, there was a barrage, hundreds of rounds were pumped in in four minutes, okay, into those two classrooms,” McCraw said, according to AFP.
“Any firing afterwards was sporadic and it was at the door. So the belief is that there may not be anybody living anymore,” he added.
McCraw separately told reporters, however, that a 911 call received at 12:16 pm — one of several made from inside the classrooms — reported eight or nine children still alive.
He did not identify the caller, who he said called at least four times.
As many as 19 officers were outside the classroom door at that time, plus an unknown number of tactical team members who had just arrived, according to McCraw’s timeline. The door was eventually breached at 12:50 pm.
McCraw said a second caller — a child — called 911 multiple times begging for police to come. During one of her calls, at 12.21, three shots could be heard, he said.
Her final call was cut off as she made it outside, he added.
Texas authorities said on Thursday that Ramos lingered outside the building for 12 minutes firing shots, before walking into the school and barricading in a classroom where he killed 19 children and two teachers.
Victor Escalon, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), said, according to The Wall Street Journal, that he couldn’t say why no one stopped the gunman from entering the school.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Wednesday that the gunman revealed on Facebook just before the shooting that he was going to attack a school.
Abbott said the gunman wrote three messages on Facebook before the attack: once, about 30 minutes before the school shooting, to say he was going to shoot his grandmother, once to say he had shot his grandmother, and a third time — approximately 15 minutes before the shooting — to say he was going to open fire at an elementary school.
Facebook said the posts "were private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred," and that the company is "closely cooperating with law enforcement."
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)