Local officers reportedly delayed US Border Patrol agents from going after gunman who killed 21 people at Texas school
Not only were local police slow to confront the shooter who killed 19 children and two adults in Tuesday's Texas school massacre, they also reportedly refused to allow federal agents to confront the gunman until nearly an hour after they'd arrived on the scene.
Specially equipped US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents, who arrived at the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school between noon and 12:10pm, weren't allowed by local police to breach the adjoining classrooms in which the shooter had locked himself until just before 1pm, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing unidentified federal officials.
The federal agents found a chaotic scene when they arrived at the school, where people were pulling children out of windows and police tried to secure a perimeter. The agents, who arrived at the school "far earlier than previously known," didn't understand why they weren't allowed to immediately charge the gunman, the Times said.
"We were told to wait," a Border Patrol official told Yahoo News on Friday. "We were told to wait and wait, and the team wanted to go. But you have to understand, CBP is not the lead agency, so they had to wait, and now look what happened."
Uvalde is located west of San Antonio, about 80 miles from the US-Mexico border. Tuesday's incident began when a 911 caller reported seeing a man with a gun outside Uvalde's Robb Elementary School. The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, reportedly entered the school through an unlocked door around 11:40am.
Rather than confronting the gunman immediately, as policing protocol requires in the case of an active shooter, 19 officers stood in the hallway outside the fourth-grade classrooms in which Ramos had locked himself, Texas director of public safety Steven McCraw told reporters on Friday. As more than 45 minutes ticked by, students inside the classroom desperately called 911 for help, in at least one case using a dead teacher's phone.
At the time, the school district's police chief, Pete Arredondo, thought there wasn't a threat to other children inside the rooms, supposing that the suspect had barricaded himself, so officers waited for tactical gear before breaching the locked door. Finally, after a janitor unlocked the door, officers went in, and members of the CBP tactical team reportedly killed the gunman.
"From the benefit of hindsight, where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision," McCraw said. "It was the wrong decision, period. There is no excuse for that. But again, I wasn't there, but I'm just telling you, from what we know, we believe there should've been an entry as soon as you can." He added that even if more children weren't at risk of being shot - an assessment that turned out to be wrong - there may have been injured people whose lives could have been saved if they were quickly given treatment.
Police had initially tried to enter the classrooms but fell back after they were fired upon, according to the Times. Two officers were injured. It wasn't clear to CBP agents why their team was needed and the local SWAT team didn't respond.
READ MORE: Anti-gun politician crashes Texas shooting press conference (VIDEO)
There were multiple media reports of parents at the scene being handcuffed after imploring police outside the school to do something to save their children. Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed, said he was among five or six fathers who were told by police to move back as they heard gunshots from inside the school. "We wanted to storm the building," Cazares told the Washington Post. "We were saying, 'Let's go', because that is how worried we were, and we wanted to get our babies out."