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Police face questions over response to Texas school shooting

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Law enforcement authorities were questioned and slammed Thursday over how long it took before they stormed a classroom at a Texas elementary school and put an end to the rampage of a gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers.

Investigators also haven’t been able to say for sure whether an armed school district security guard outside Robb Elementary in the town of Uvalde exchanged gunfire with the attacker, Salvador Ramos. , 18, when Ramos first arrived on Tuesday.

The motive for the massacre – the deadliest school shooting in the country since Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago – remains under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no criminal or health history. known mind.

A family pays their respects next to crosses bearing the names of victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

During the siege, which ended when a US Border Patrol team burst in and shot the shooter, frustrated onlookers urged officers to charge into the school, witnesses said.

” Go for it ! Go for it ! women yelled at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who observed the scene from outside a house across the street.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Wednesday that 40 minutes to an hour passed between when Ramos opened fire on the school security guard and when the tactical team shot him.

“The bottom line is that law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They engaged immediately. They contained (Ramos) in the classroom.

But a department spokesperson said Thursday that authorities were still working to clarify the timeline of the attack, unclear whether that 40-minute to one-hour period began when the shooter arrived at the school. or earlier, when he shot his grandmother at home.

“At this time, we don’t have a specific or reliable timeline to provide that the shooter was in school during this time,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN.

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that his agency’s tactical officers who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved quickly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind a shield-wielding officer.

“What we wanted to make sure was to act fast, to act fast, and that’s exactly what these officers did,” Ortiz told Fox News.

But a law enforcement official said once inside the building, Border Patrol agents had difficulty opening the classroom door and had to ask a staff member to open it. the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Olivarez said investigators are trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.

Police face questions over response to Texas school shooting
Madeleine Rigney, 9, places a teddy bear to donate to victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, during a community prayer Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Pharr, Texas. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he rushed to school when he heard about the shooting, arriving as police were always gathered outside.

Upset that the police wouldn’t move in, he raised the idea of ​​charging into the school with several other passers-by.

“Let’s go fast because the cops aren’t doing anything like they’re supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”

“They weren’t prepared,” he added.

Carranza had seen Ramos crash his truck into a ditch outside the school, grab his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shoot two people outside a funeral home, who fled unharmed .

Olivarez told CNN that the school security guard outside was armed and initial reports indicated that he and Ramos exchanged gunfire, “but at this time we are trying to corroborate this information. “.

As Ramos entered the school, two Uvalde police officers exchanged gunfire with him and were injured, according to Olivarez. Ramos walked into a classroom and started killing.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school earlier.

“There were more. There was only one,” he said.

Police face questions over response to Texas school shooting
Two family members of one of the victims killed in Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School comfort each other during a prayer vigil in Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C .hong)

On Wednesday evening, hundreds of people filled the stands at the city’s fairgrounds for a vigil. Some cried. Some closed their eyes while mouthing silent prayers. Parents wrapped their arms around their children as speakers led prayers for healing.

Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother in the house they shared.

Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was wading through his yard when he heard the gunshots.

Ramos ran out the front door and across the yard to a truck parked in front of the house and fled: ‘He sped off, I mean fast,’ spraying gravel into the air, said Gallegos.

Ramos’ grandmother came out covered in blood: “She said, ‘Berto, that’s what he did. He shot me.’ She was hospitalized.

Gallegos said he didn’t hear any arguments before or after the shots were fired and didn’t know of any history of bullying or abusing Ramos, whom he rarely saw.

Lorena Auguste was a substitute teacher at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary. Eventually, she found out that the girl was fine.

But that night, her niece had a question.

“Why did they do this to us?” asked the girl. “We are good kids. We haven’t done anything wrong.

Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

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