The classroom door that separated Uvalde mass shooter Salvador Ramos and a team of police officers in Uvalde, last month wasn’t locked, according to a senior Texas law enforcement official.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told a Texas Senate hearing Tuesday that there was nothing barring officers from accessing Ramos, who shot and killed 19 children and two adults on May 24 at Robb Elementary School.
“I have great reasons to believe (the door) was never secured,” McCraw said at the Senate hearing. “How about trying the door and seeing if it’s locked?”
McCraw’s statement is sure to further anger parents of children who have since accused local Uvalde police of failing in their duties. Police waiting outside the classroom the gunman was in for nearly an hour, officials have previously said.
“The law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre,” McCraw said.
He added that the incident commander prioritized the safety of police over that of the students who were inside the school. McCraw has indicated school police chief Pete Arredondo was in charge, although Arredondo has previously said that he wasn’t aware that he was in charge at the time.
McCraw slammed the response, saying that “the only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander.”
“The officers had weapons, while the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none,” McCraw said. “One [hour], 14 minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued. And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for a radio and rifles. And he waited for shields, and he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed.”
On June 10, Arredondo told the Texas Tribune that he wasn’t the on-scene commander at the time of the shooting and assumed someone else took over after more police arrived. The chief claimed that the door was locked as officers were attempting to find a key.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo told the outlet. Seventy-seven minutes after the shooting started, officials unlocked the door and shot the suspect, he added.
“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff,” Arredondo said in the interview, noting that about 500 students and staff were evacuated.
McCraw’s statement comes as images published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper this week appear to show armed officers, including one with a ballistic shield, inside Robb Elementary that have a timestamp taken about one hour before Ramos, 18, was stopped.
The Epoch Times has contacted the Uvalde Police Department for comment.