One of the questions being mulled over yesterday was how the shooter so easily gained access to the school. Robb Elementary didn’t have the same “hardening” efforts, including a buzz-in security vestibule, that the Uvalde high school had. But there was supposedly a security plan that included keeping doors to the school locked from the outside.
A short time ago Texas DPS director Steven McGraw gave a timeline of the incident which revealed a teacher had propped open that door moments before the shooter arrived. “We know from video evidence at 11:27 the exterior door…where we knew the shooter entered, was propped open by a teacher,” McGraw said. He continued, “11:28 the suspect’s vehicle crashes into the ditch.”
Several people heard the crash. Two men from a nearby funeral home ran over to see if anyone needed help. When they got to the car they saw Ramos with a rifle and a backpack. He fired at them but missed. Meanwhile, inside the school, a teacher saw what was happening and called 911 at 11:30 am.
McGraw also cleared up another mystery from yesterday. Was there an armed school resource officer on scene? Initially there were reports an SRO had exchanged fire with Ramos before he entered the school. Today, McGraw said the SRO was not present on campus but heard a radio call about a man with a gun and raced to the school. The SRO identified a man walking at the back of the school who he thought might be the suspect. He drove straight there but the man turned out to be a teacher. “In doing so, he drove right by the suspect who was hunkered down behind a vehicle,” McGraw said. All of that happened at 11:31 am.
Ramos fired shots at the school from the parking lot. He then entered the school at 11:33 am. Once inside the school he immediately started shooting and fired “at least 100 rounds.”
At 11:35 am, three police officers from the Uvalde police department entered through the same door the suspect had entered. Those three officers went to the nearby classroom. The door was locked and two of the officers were shot with what McGraw called “grazing wounds.” The shooting happened through the locked door.
Here the timeline starts to speed up. McGraw said there were additional shots fired at 11:37 am then again at 11:40 and 11:44. This is the barricade situation we’ve been hearing about. McGraw said more officers continued to arrive at the scene from 11:51 am to 12:03 pm until there were as many as 19 officers in the hallway.
And then there’s another big gap in the timeline until BORTAC officers arrive at 12:15 pm. And here McGraw begins accidentally getting the timeline wrong. He says “At 11:21 law enforcement moved down the hallway.” But he doesn’t mean 11:21 am he means 12:21 pm. Ramos hadn’t even arrived at the school at 11:21 am. McGraw continued making this mistake so I’m just going to correct the times for him.
At 12:50, “they breached the door using keys that they were able to get from the janitor,” McGraw said. At that point they killed the suspect. So this confirms what we’ve been hearing. Officers did go in and engage the shooter immediately, but after that initial push they stood outside in the hallway from 11:35 am until the door was finally breached at 12:50 pm. That’s 75 minutes during which there were no attempts to breach the door.
McGraw then went through a timeline of 911 calls which made the delay seem even worse. A female teacher called at 12:03 pm and told police where the shooter was. Of course based on the earlier timeline, they already knew that. The same teacher called back at 12:10 to advise police there were multiple people dead. At 12:13 and 12:16 she called once again to say there were 8-9 students still alive.
I couldn’t hear the first question but it must have been about the delay storming the door because McGraw answered, “The on scene commander believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject.” That’s basically what I and others were speculating yesterday, especially after the CNN interview with DPS spokesman Chris Olivarez.
The next question is more clear. Why did they treat this as a barricaded subject when there were children inside the classroom, some of whom were still alive. McGraw replied, “Again, you know, the on scene commander considered a barricaded subject and that there was time and there were no more children at risk. Obviously, based upon the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were at risk and it was in fact still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject.”
That’s one hell of a big mistake to make and you do wonder why it took three days for them to admit it.
Question number three is also about the delay. Again, McGraw says the commander on the scene made the decision to wait for a tactical team.
After question four, McGraw says they had plenty of officers in the hallway but the commander felt they didn’t have the proper equipment and wanted to wait for BORTAC. He added, “With the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Period. There is no excuse for that.”
McGraw then outlines what the correct action should have been: “When there’s an active shooter, the rules change. It’s no longer a barricaded subject. You don’t have time. You don’t worry about outer perimeters. And by the way, Texas embraces active shooter training, active shooter certification.
“That doctrine requires officers, we don’t care what agency you’re from, you don’t have to have a leader on the scene. Every officer lines up, stacks up, goes and finds where those rounds are being fired and keeps shooting until the subject is dead. Period.”
McGraw points out that he wasn’t there. Fair enough but why didn’t anyone at the scene push to follow this advice? If this is what officers are taught to do in this situation why didn’t any of them push back on what was obviously the wrong approach?
Update: I’m still going through this Q&A. McGraw was asked where the SRO was and says he wasn’t on campus. Asked why he wasn’t on campus he didn’t really answer and suggests those details are still being investigated. So we really don’t have an answer for why he wasn’t there. Was he late to work? Did he go out for coffee? We don’t know.
Pressed again on what he would say to the parents, McGraw says “We’re not here to defend what happened. We’re here to report the facts.”
Another reporter asks if parents are owed an apology. McGraw replies, “If I thought it would help, I’d apologize.” He then goes on to say that after 100 rounds were fired into the classroom the conclusion was that no one was left alive inside those rooms. But of course, he’s already revealed there were 911 calls saying there were still kids alive.
McGraw is asked how many students died in the time between the 911 call from inside the school and the breach. He says he doesn’t know but it is being investigated.
There’s a question from a female CNN reporter which I can’t hear but in response, McGraw is breaking down a bit. He’s on the verge of tears. “Yeah, thanks a lot” he said and then added, “Forget how I’m doing, I’m not the parents of those children. Forget about me.”
Finally we get to the obvious question: Who was the incident commander. “The chief of police of the consolidated independent school district is the incident commander. It’s his school he’s the chief of police,” McGraw said. Earlier I believe McGraw said the Uvalde school district had their own police force made up of 6 officers. So if that’s the commander he’s talking about then he was someone in command of a very small force. Again, why didn’t some of the many other officers who were present point out to him he was doing this completely wrong?
Update: Here’s the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) police department. That guy on the left is apparently the on-scene commander McGraw was talking about.