The worst Uvalde story yet

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

This ties up a loose end from yesterday’s post. According to the timeline laid out by Texas DPS chief Steve McCraw, one of the Uvalde school district cops on the scene told the other officers that he’d been on the phone with his wife, Eva Mireles, a teacher at the school who’d been shot in room 112. She was dying, she had said. He relayed that information to them at 11:48 a.m.

Police didn’t enter the room and confront the shooter for another 62 minutes.

How could the officer, Ruben Ruiz, not have ignored the warnings to stand down and rushed into the room to try to save his wife?

It turns out that McCraw answered that question during his testimony yesterday. Watch 60 seconds here. We’re almost a full month on from the shooting and somehow the police response continues to get less explicable and more outrageous.

They detained him, disarmed, and kicked him out of the building while his wife bled out on the other side of the wall. That’s not the only example of cops detaining people who were willing to risk their own lives to try to stop the shooter either.

If I were Ruiz, I don’t know how I’d function. Every hour would be consumed wondering whether my wife would have been saved if the police had made their way in sooner. How can he ever work with those cops again? For that matter, why did he allow himself to be escorted from the scene instead of defying orders and barging into the room?

Were all of the officers at the scene under the impression that the doors were locked — even though, per McCraw, it turns out they weren’t? No one tried the knob once in desperation?

Again, Ruiz told his colleagues at 11:48 a.m. that his wife was shot but alive. Mireles was still alive 22 minutes later, per a 911 call by one of the children trapped in the classroom:

“There is a lot of bodies,” a 10-year-old student, Khloie Torres, quietly told a 911 dispatcher at 12:10 p.m. — 37 minutes after the gunman began shooting inside the classrooms — according to a review of a transcript of the call. “I don’t want to die, my teacher is dead, my teacher is dead, please send help, send help for my teacher, she is shot but still alive.”

Incredibly, Mireles was *still* alive when cops finally burst in and killed the shooter. “Officers could be seen in video footage rushing a few children out of the room and carrying out Ms. Mireles, who appeared to be in extreme pain,” the Times reported earlier this month. “She reached an ambulance, but died before reaching a hospital.”

What if they had reached her an hour earlier?

If not for Mireles’s phone call to Ruiz, one could imagine that the cops in the hallway might have believed they were in a hostage situation. If the shooter had stopped firing, they may have assumed that everyone inside the classroom who had already been shot was dead and now it was a matter of trying to wait him out in hopes that he’d surrender before harming anyone else.

But once they knew that someone was alive inside and bleeding, waiting should have been unimaginable. Even if they didn’t know about the 911 calls from the kids due to poor communication with dispatchers, they knew from Ruiz that they had to get in there to save Mireles ASAP, at whatever cost. But they didn’t. And they didn’t let him try either.

The Uvalde school district chief, Pete Arredondo, has become the chief villain in the story of the police’s non-response but I agree with Ari Schulman that it has to be more complicated than that. For a responding officer to be deterred from rescuing his own wife, there’s more going on than Arredondo screwing up.

I think it boils down to authority-induced paralysis. In a situation as fraught as a mass shooting, with cops on the scene who have allegedly been trained on the proper response, no one wants to risk upending the delicately laid plans which they assume are being hatched by commanders on the scene. And so everyone sits back and trusts that the pros know how to handle this situation. And they wait. And wait.

Even Ruiz, I assume, must have believed that there was a method to the madness of waiting interminably in the hallway even if he couldn’t discern it himself. One senses a “reverse Milgram” vibe to the standoff, where instead of committing acts of cruelty against innocent people on the orders of an authority figure, cops who should have known better were induced to stand by and let a third party commit those acts based on similar orders to stand down. No one involved will ever recover.