A group of 19 police officers stood for about 45 minutes in the hallway outside Texas classrooms where the gunman killed 19 third- and fourth-grade students and two teachers this week before US Border Patrol agents unlocked the door to confront and kill him, Texas authorities said on Friday.
While the police were in that school hallway Tuesday, 911 emergency calls were coming from inside the two adjoining classrooms where the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was holed up, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said.
“With the benefit of hindsight … from where I’m sitting right now, of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision [to wait]. There’s no excuse for that,” said McGraw in an emotional, 40-minute media briefing on Friday.
The police chief in charge of the forces inside the school believed the incident had changed from an “active shooter” situation to a “barricaded suspect”, McCraw said.
On the street outside, parents were pleading with police to enter the classroom to stop the killer or to let them go into the school themselves. Video showed parents breaking through yellow police tape and demanding officers go into the school. Now, questions are being raised about why it took police so long to enter the classroom.McGraw said Texas law enforcement doctrine and training requires officers to attempt to neutralise a gunman in any active shooter situation. “You go to the gun. You find it. You neutralize it. Period,” he said.
“When there’s an active shooter, the rules change,” he said.
During the attack, teachers and children inside Robb Elementary School classrooms called 911 asking for help at least seven times, including one girl who called multiple times, on one call pleading, “Please send the police now,” McCraw said. She eventually escaped alive.
But, after a barrage of gunfire when the suspect first entered the classrooms, officers inside the school were receiving only sporadic fire from the gunman through a classroom door.
A decision by the incident commander was made to wait for others to arrive with ballistic shields, McCraw said. Police then used the school janitor’s keys to open the door before entering and killing Ramos.