The headline is framed as a question because it seems too bad to be true. Would a swarm of cops really stand around outside a building while a mass shooting — of children — played out behind them?
That would make the “coward of Broward” look like Wyatt Earp.
We should be cautious about assuming too much here. But what else are we to conclude from this AP report?
“Go in there! Go in there!” nearby women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his house, across the street from Robb Elementary School in the close-knit town of Uvalde. Carranza said the officers did not go in…
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.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
They were unprepared? Uvalde taxpayers spend a pretty penny to make sure they’re not unprepared:
Uvalde is a town of just 16,000 people. But it apparently has a SWAT team.
We’re regularly told small towns need SWAT teams so they can quickly respond to events just like this. The killer was in the building for an hour. https://t.co/lsa2ACcnS8
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) May 26, 2022
Someone will have to explain these videos to me. To all appearances, not only were the cops standing around, they were actively intervening to prevent parents from storming the building to try to rescue their children — essentially, security guards for the shooter:
Video of Uvalde parents with cops — “y’all keep fighting with us, go fight that mfer!” pic.twitter.com/icDG2J595a
— ✨TheStarsAtNight ✨ (@Star5AtNight) May 26, 2022
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 26, 2022
The New York Post deciphered some of the things being yelled in the clips. “What are you doing — get inside the building!” “Go protect the kids!” “You’re scared of getting shot? I’ll go in without a vest — I will!”
The best I can do to explain it in a way that isn’t damning for the police is to speculate that the videos were recorded after the shooting had stopped and the cops outside already knew the suspect was dead. Maybe they were trying to spare the parents from the horror of seeing firsthand what had been to their children.
But that seems unlikely. The timeline from police remains curiously vague but by their account the shooter was inside the building somewhere between 40 minutes and an hour. A timeline constructed by Vice finds it was probably 90 minutes or more, with police receiving a call around 11:20 a.m. that someone had crashed his car near the school and was entering with a weapon and then announcing that the suspect was “in custody” at 1:06 p.m. Why did it take an hour and a half for them to enter the building and break into the classroom where the shooter was hunkered down?
Which brings us to another troubling detail. One police spokesman claimed that the shooter “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom.” But the head of local public safety appeared to say something different. “They did engage immediately. They did contain him in the classroom,” he told reporters of the police response. What does that mean, “contain him”?
I assume it means they were camped out in the hallway outside the classroom door, prepared to shoot if the shooter opened the door and tried to leave. But some on social media fear that the police may have barricaded the classroom door themselves while the shooter was inside, trapping him in there while some of the children around him were possibly still alive. If so, it raises the prospect of the shooter systematically murdering the children in the classroom while cops in the hallway stood by and listened.
I’m not even fully clear on who ultimately killed the shooter. “[A] law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key,” the AP reported. Why was the Border Patrol needed if Uvalde has its very own SWAT team?
There’s another mystery that hasn’t been explained by cops. The shooter apparently confronted multiple adults, including police, before his rampage began. None of those adults were killed, as far as I’m aware. So how he was able to get past them and open fire on the children? More from the AP:
Officials say he “encountered” a school district security officer outside the school, though there were conflicting reports from authorities on whether the men exchanged gunfire. After running inside, he fired on two arriving Uvalde police officers who were outside the building, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine. The police officers were injured.
According to the public safety director, “rounds were exchanged” between the shooter and the district security officer. The two cops who arrived and were quickly wounded reportedly sustained “minor injuries.” The wounded officers allegedly got close enough to the school to start breaking windows so that kids trapped in some classrooms could get out.
But why didn’t they enter the building? What was the security officer doing for an hour and a half after exchanging shots with the shooter?
Evidently some in Texas law enforcement are also troubled by the less-than-urgent response:
Texas Department of Public Safety investigators will interview a Uvalde School Police officer today or soon — they are trying to determine whether the officer was in the school, in the car, or in the vicinity of the school when shooting started. More on @NewsNation.
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) May 26, 2022
One would think it would be second nature for a police officer to throw himself into the middle of a mass shooting in hopes of neutralizing the gunman. But between this and Broward, evidently cops need much more training for this situation. Day one at the police academy from now on: “If you’re called to the scene of a shooting rampage, you will insert yourself and be prepared to lay down your life if necessary to try to stop the killing. If you’re unwilling to do that, you’re in the wrong line of work.” In the meantime, until they’re prepared to take the sort of risks that American soldiers take, maybe knock it off with the tough-guy SWAT photo poses and “Punisher” iconography.
I’ll leave you with this. I bet this guy would have gone in, with or without ammo and armor.
Angel Garza, whose ten year old daughter Amerie was murdered, holding her photo to his heart:
"How do you look at this girl and shoot her? Oh, my baby. How do you shoot my baby?" pic.twitter.com/TKGDp81Pze
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 26, 2022