Law enforcement officials in the US state of Texas have come under criticism for the amount of time that elapsed before they stormed into a primary school classroom to stop a gunman’s rampage that killed 19 children and two teachers.
Videos circulating on social media on Thursday showed desperate parents shouting at police to enter Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde as the shooting was unfolding, with some trying to approach the building themselves before being restrained by officers.
In one video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking through yellow police tape and yelling at officers to go into the building.
“It’s already been an hour, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Ledezma said during the video.
Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult. One woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s shooting in there.”
“We got guys going in to get kids,” one officer is heard telling the crowd. “They’re working.”
The videos come as the United States is reeling from the massacre, the nation’s deadliest school shooting in a decade, which has left parents across the US fearful and grieving.
The motive remains unknown, with authorities saying the 18-year-old gunman had no known criminal or mental health history.
The attack also has reignited debate about gun laws in the US, with President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats pushing for new restrictions despite resistance from Republicans.
“We must ask when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done to – if not completely stop – fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday. He is expected to visit Uvalde in the coming days.
‘They were unprepared’
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders. “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
He added, “They were unprepared.”
The siege ended when a US Border Patrol team burst in and fatally shot the gunman.
Investigators have so far been unable to say with any certainty whether an armed school district security officer exchanged fire with the attacker.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said on Wednesday that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from the moment when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They did engage immediately. They did contain [the shooter] in the classroom.”
But a department spokesman said on Thursday that authorities were still working to clarify the timeline of the attack, uncertain whether that period of 40 minutes to an hour began when the gunman reached the school, or earlier, when he shot his grandmother at home.
“Right now, we do not have an accurate or confident timeline to provide to say the gunman was in the school for this period,” Lieutenant Christopher Olivarez told CNN.
He said the school security officer outside was armed and that initial reports said he and the attacker exchanged gunfire, “but right now, we’re trying to corroborate that information.”
As the gunman entered the school, two Uvalde police officers exchanged fire with him and were wounded, according to Olivarez.
But “the shooter was able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom and again, just began shooting numerous children and teachers who were in that classroom”, Olivarez told NBC on Wednesday.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that the tactical officers from his agency who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved quickly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack” behind an agent holding up a shield.
“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that’s exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.