AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Police had enough officers and gunfire to detain the gunman three minutes after he entered the building at the scene of the Wolde school massacre, and found the door to the classroom he had locked unopened. If they bothered to check it out, the head of the Texas State Police Department testified Tuesday, declaring law enforcement’s response a “terrible failure.”
Instead officers with guns stood on a sidewalk for more than an hour, waiting in part for weapons and gear, and finally they entered the classroom and killed the gunman, ending the May 24 attack. 19 children and two teachers were killed.
“I do not care if you have flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, you go in,” said Col. Steve McGrath, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, in a blush testimony at the state Senate hearing.
According to McGrath, the classroom door could not be locked from the inside by design, and a teacher said before the shooting that the lock had been broken. However, there was no indication that authorities tried to open it during the conflict, McGrath said. Instead police said they were waiting for the key.
“I have great reason to believe it was never protected,” McGrath said of the door. “How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?”
Delay in law enforcement response at Rob Elementary School Have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.
McGrath loaded Pete ArredontoWagalde School District Police Chief, McGrath, said: “The only thing preventing dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 is the scene commander who decided to put the officers ‘lives before the officers’ lives. Children.”
McGrath said Arredondo had “made terrible decisions” and lamented that the police response was “putting our business back a decade”.
Arrotondo said he did not consider himself responsible and that the law enforcement response was controlled by someone else. He has repeatedly denied requests for comment from The Associated Press, and his lawyer did not respond immediately on Tuesday.
The police chief testified for about five hours Tuesday at the Texas House Committee’s closed-door hearing, according to the committee chairman.
Senates reacted angrily to the latest details, some saying Arrotondo was incompetent and that the delay would cost lives. Others pressed McGrath as to why government troops at the scene were not responsible. McGrath said the troopers had no legal authority to do so.
The head of public security presented a timeline in which three officers with two rifles entered the building within three minutes of the gunman, an 18-year-old man with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. A few minutes later several more officers entered. Two officers, who initially went into the sidewalk, were shepherding in the fire.
McGrath said police’s decision to detain most of what law enforcement has learned in the two decades since Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999 killed 13 people.
“You do not have to wait for a SWAT team. You just have to have an officer,” he said. “Officers do not have to wait for shields to enter the classroom.
Eight minutes after the shooter entered, an officer said police had a heavy cockpit that could be used to break down the classroom door, McGrath said.
The head of public security spent nearly five hours providing a clear picture of the assassination, outlining a series of missed opportunities, communication breakdowns and errors, based on an investigation that included nearly 700 interviews. In case of misconduct:
– Arredonto has no radio.
– Police and sheriff’s radios do not work inside the school. Only the radios of the border patrol agents on display did, and they did not work properly.
– Some of the school maps used by the police to coordinate their response are incorrect.
Public leaders, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, initially praised the police response in Wolverhampton. Abbott said authorities acted quickly and took the killer out with “amazing courage” toward the shooting, thereby saving lives. He later said he was misled.
State police initially said the gunman, Salvador Ramos, entered the school through an outer door opened by a teacher. However, McGrath said the teacher had closed the door, But without her knowledge, it can only be locked from the outside. The gunman “walked straight,” McGrath said.
The gunman was familiar with the building and was a fourth-grader in the same classroom where he carried out the attack, McGrath said. The head of public security said Ramos had not been in contact with police that day.
Sen said the whole prototype of lockdown and sniper training would be useless if the school doors could not be locked. Paul Bettencourt said. “We have a culture where we think the whole school is trained to lock up … but we’ll set a condition for failure,” he said.
Bettencourt challenged Arredonto to testify in public and said he should have fired himself immediately. He pointed out angrily that he heard gunshots while police were waiting.
“At least six shots have been fired this time,” he said. “Why is he shooting? Kills someone. Yet the commander of the incident finds all the reasons for not doing anything.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Tuesday the city has “specific legal reasons” for not answering questions publicly or releasing records.. “There is no cover-up,” he said in a statement.
In the afternoon, the city council of Wollde unanimously voted against granting leave to Aradonto, a councilor, to appear at public meetings. Relatives of the victims of the shooting have appealed to city leaders to fire him.
“Please, please, we beg you, get this man out of our lives,” said Berlinda Arrola, grandmother of American Joe Corsa.
After the meeting, Mayor McGrath testified that he blamed Arrotondo, and that the Department of Public Security repeatedly released false information about the shooting and blunted the role of its own officials.
He called the Senate a “clown show” and said he had not heard from McGrath about the involvement of government troops, adding that their number in the school hall at the time of the massacre was higher than any other law enforcement agency.
Questions about the law enforcement response began a few days after the assassination. Three days later, McGrath said Aradonto had made the “wrong decision” not to enter the classroom for more than 70 minutes, while distressed parents outside the school begged authorities to call 911 for help as fourth-graders within two classrooms. Go inside.
An hour after the gunman first hit his truck outside the school, Arredonto said according to McGrath’s chronology: “People are going to ask why we’re taking so long. We try to save the rest of our lives.
But the time elapsed before officers entered the classroom was “intolerable,” McGrath said Tuesday.
Police did not find any red flags on Ramos’ school discipline documents, but learned through interviews that he was involved in animal cruelty. “He walked around with a bag of dead cats,” McGrath said.
During the days and weeks of the shooting, authorities provided conflicting and misleading accounts of what had happened. But McGrath assured lawmakers: “Everything I testified about today has been confirmed.”
If only one recommendation could be made, it would be for additional training, McGrath said. He also said that every state patrol car in Texas should have shields and door breakers.
“I want every troop to know how to transgress and have the tools to do it,” he said.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stenkil of Dallas and Terry Wallace, Toledo, John Sever, a reporter in Ohio, and photographer Eric Kay in Austin contributed to the report.
Find additional AP coverage on the Wolde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting
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