Like Allahpundit, I read the story about police in Uvalde holding parents back for 40+ minutes while the shooter was inside the school and all of it seems hard to explain. Today, a CBS affiliate in San Antonio has an interview with one of the children who was inside the room with the shooter but who survived by hiding.
A fourth grader who survived the mass shooting at Robb Elementary has shared gut-wrenching details about what he witnessed inside that classroom.
“He shot the next person’s door. We have a door in the middle. He opened it. He came in and he crouched a little bit and he said, he said, ‘It’s time to die,'” the boy recalled…
“When I heard the shooting through the door, I told my friend to hide under something so he won’t find us,” he said. “I was hiding hard. And I was telling my friend to not talk because he is going to hear us.”…
“When the cops came, the cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came in and shot her,” the boy said. “The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting.”
Why would cops be telling kids to yell if they needed help? They knew the kids needed help and the help they needed was to get rid of the shooter. None of it makes any sense.
NBC News interviewed an Uvalde City Councilman who said he’s been asking some of the same questions everyone else has about how this could have happened in a town that had spent a lot of money preparing for the worse. All he’s being told is that it’s under investigation. However, he did say that he arrived at the school before noon and that there were already police inside the school, moving in and out.
“I left my office I was here right before 12 so when they’re saying that it took them 40 minutes, it wasn’t,” he said. Police may have been in and around the building, the question is what were they doing.
Yesterday Lieutenant Chris Olivarez, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, gave Today a rundown of the entire incident. He said that police tried to engage the shooter immediately but when they did some officers were shot. “They tried to make entry into the building. They were met with gunfire by the suspect…Some of those officers were shot so at that point they began breaking windows around the school trying to evacuate children…” he said. While police were doing that, the shooter barricaded himself in a classroom and began shooting everyone inside. I have this cued up to his description of the police response. Just listen to about one minute of this.
So police were doing something in and around the school, they just weren’t engaging the shooter after that initial attempt. What you don’t get from this description by Lieutenant Olivarez is that a lot of time passed, maybe 40 minutes or more, before authorities finally stormed the room and successfully killed the shooter.
There’s no explanation of what the thinking was behind that delay but it sounds as if once officers got shot trying to stop the shooter and the shooter barricaded himself inside they decided to wait for SWAT, or in this case BORTAC agents. SWAT (or the federal equivalent) are the officers that would usually deal with a barricade situation.
However, the FBI has pointed out that in active shooter situations, the shooting often doesn’t end until the shooter is killed. This 2014 paper which is linked on the FBI’s active shooter resources website says there has been a reevaluation of sending police in immediately rather than waiting for them to form a team.
Initially, training programs and departments instructed their officers to form teams before entering a structure to seek out an attacker. Teams offer the responding officers a variety of advantages, but they also take time to assemble. As time went by, agencies began to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of smaller teams and even solo officer entry into the attack location. Many departments now authorize officers to make solo entry into locations where an ASE is occurring…
The authors have seen discussions on message boards—even in training classes—where officers suggest the only training needed to respond to ASEs is to get to the scene quickly. The belief is that most events will be over, or suspects will kill themselves. While it is true that 1) 49 percent of the events end before officers arrive and 2) suspects kill themselves after the police arrive 14 percent of the time, responding officers used force to stop the attack in 31 percent of the ASEs assessed. This 1 in 3 chance of having to use force makes it clear that simply training officers to show up is not enough. Officers must learn the tactical skills needed to successfully resolve these events.
Again, it sounds like the first officers did attempt to engage the shooter quickly but after officers were shot in that attempt they moved on to another plan which involved waiting. I have no idea how long it will take for an investigation of the response but given the number of officers, agents and agencies on the scene my guess is it will take weeks or months.
Here’s a bit of that interview with the 9-year-old who survived the shooting.
Finally, here’s a report from the same station about the security measures that were in place in Uvalde. It appears the town had a very up-to-date security approach but that some of the hardening measures, such as a buzz-in security vestibule, had been added at the local high school but not at Robb Elementary. The school did have a policy about keeping doors locked but NBC reports there was an awards ceremony that day which meant parents were coming in an out. That may be why the shooter was able to gain access through a back door that normally would have been locked.
Update: The police response is now getting a lot of media attention. The NY Times verifies something I pointed to above. Officers are trained to go in, not wait.
Law enforcement training for active shooters has evolved considerably since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, when the emphasis was on securing a perimeter before moving in.
The police response to Columbine was heavily criticized. Officers are now trained to disable the gunman as quickly as possible, even if only two officers — or one who is willing to go in alone — are available, said Brian Higgins, a former SWAT team commander and police chief who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and runs a safety consulting firm.
“There’s no waiting for tactical teams,” he said. But he added that if gunfire stops, police are trained to react as if it were a barricade or hostage situation, with tactics that may include waiting.
Did they think the shooting was over and that this had turned into a barricade situation. Those rules might make sense in a hostage situation where no one has been shot. Better to negotiatite and wait for SWAT. But it doesn’t make any sense in this context since young victims had been shot and were dying while police waited.