Police in Uvalde, Texas, refused to enter a classroom of elementary school students to stop an active shooter because they feared an AR-15-style rifle. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed last May while police—some of whom had the same type of rifles as the gunman—waited over an hour to stop the threat.
AR RiflesIn a story about gun control, The Texas Tribune reported on March 20 that the Uvalde police said on radios that they were afraid to enter Robb Elementary School because the killer had an “AR” rifle.
Feinstein and other gun-control activists said the revelation about the Uvalde police's fear of AR-style rifles supports a federal “assault weapon” ban. Law enforcement leaders disagree.
AR at NashvilleThe Metro Nashville Police Department response on March 27, just a week after the Uvalde report, showed law enforcement is trained to respond to any weapon.
One of the initial responding officers, Detective Sgt. Jeff Mathes, said he heard gunfire as they got closer to Hale. “From my training experiences, I knew those sounds to be rifles," he said at a press conference. The officers did not slow down at the sound of the rifle shots. They entered a large room and found Hale in front of a wall of windows. Officer Rex Engelbert, a four-year veteran, and Detective Michael Collazo, a nine-year veteran, both shot four rounds at her and ended the rampage.
Nashville ResponseNashville Police released the body camera footage from Engelbert and Collazo on March 28. Englebert pulled up, grabbed an AR-style rifle from the trunk of his car, and walked briskly toward the school. A woman outside told Engelbert that the children were all locked down, but two were missing. Engelbert replied, “Yes, ma’am” as he continued walking toward the door. As other officers converged, Engelbert called out, “Give me three, let’s get three!”
Smith taught active shooter training during her 29 years on the police force. She explained that the Nashville officers were forming an “ad hoc team” for entry, which is part of active shooter training. She said they are taught to get ideally four people to enter. However, they are told to enter alone if necessary. If four are available, they make a diamond formation to go toward the shots as they clear different areas.
Uvalde Police Fear ARThe Tribune reported that body camera video showed State Trooper Richard Bogdanski stopping outside the school. He asked on his radio, “You know what kind of gun?”
“AR. He has a battle rifle,” a voice responded.
Bogdanski replied, “What’s the safest way to do this? I’m not trying to get clapped out.”
Pete Arredondo, the disgraced Uvalde school district police chief, told investigators the "firepower" the gunman had "based on what shells I saw" made him decide to not order his men to go into the classroom.
The ChoiceGoing in “guns blazing” is exactly what police are trained to do.
Zeek Arkham has been in enforcement for 16 years in the New York State area and has done extensive active shooter training. When asked about the rifle fear of Uvalde police, Arkham said it is a "poor excuse in order to justify their cowardice." Arkham said, "I’d rather use my sidearm in order to make the attempt in saving lives than sit outside and twiddle my thumbs with the excuse of ‘I’m outgunned.’”
The Uvalde police decided to wait for a SWAT team with more protective armor that was 60 miles away from the school. Sal LaBarbera, a retired Los Angeles Police Department’s homicide chief, pointed out, “If you watch this Tennessee shooting, these officers were armed the same as Uvalde. Same weapons.” Also, Nashville did not have the ballistic vests used for rifle fire that Uvalde waited for from SWAT.
“The Nashville Police Department knew the risks associated with taking the job. They understood that in this day and age, active shooters and mass casualty incidents can happen," said Arkham, the host of the “Reasonable Suspicion” podcast. "They ran in anyway and set a new standard for police response."
“The Nashville body cam videos were redemptive for American law enforcement because we took a lot of hits for Uvalde," said Smith. “You don’t have a choice to wait. The choice starts the minute we enter the police academy. We chose that our life may be sacrificed for an innocent third person. We are not suicidal, but we have to run toward the shots.”