As questions mount over the police response to the shooting rampage in Uvalde that left 19 children dead, including an hour-long wait to storm the building, footage has surfaced showing desperate parents pleading with police officers outside the school to take action as the massacre was unfolding inside.
The video, filmed by a nearby resident outside Texas’ Robb Elementary School and verified by The Washington Post, was taken at 11:54 a.m.—15 minutes after 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos had entered the school and barricaded himself in a classroom, where he opened fire on kids and teachers.
“These cops are right here. Bro, there’s a [expletive] shooting at the school and these [expletive] cops are telling everybody to leave, dude, while everybody’s here trying to pick up their [expletive] kids,” the man filming the video can be heard saying.
The kids “are all in there and the cops ain’t doing [expletive] but standing outside,” he says moments later, before adding, “You know that there are kids, right? They’re little kids, they don’t know how to defend themselves.”
One parent, Angeli Rose Gomez, told The Wall Street Journal she was even handcuffed for apparently impeding an investigation by desperately urging officers to storm the school. “The police were doing nothing,” she said. “They were just standing outside on the fence.”
She said she saw cops use a Taser on another father who tried to retrieve his child from a school bus that was evacuating students. “They didn’t do that to the shooter, but they did that to us. That’s how it felt,” she said.
Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, provided an updated timeline of events on Thursday yet it still raised more questions than it answered.
He confirmed that Ramos crashed his truck in a ditch near the school at 11:28 a.m. then climbed out of the passenger side with a long-arm rifle and a backpack of ammunition. He fired at two people at the funeral home across the street, who were not injured. That prompted a 911 call at 11:32 a.m. about an armed man who had crashed his truck and was running towards the school. However, Escalon said, contrary to initial reports, an armed officer for the school district did not initially try to engage Ramos. There was no armed officer on site, he said.
At 11:40 a.m., surveillance video captured Ramos entering the school “unobstructed” via a back door that was left unlocked, Escalon said. Ramos walked down two hallways and barricaded himself a fourth-grade classroom.
Four minutes later, the first police officers arrived on the scene but were fired upon by Ramos, he said. “They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire, they call for additional resources, everybody that’s in the area,” he said. “...We need speciality equipment, we need body armor, we need precision riflemen, negotiators.”
He insisted the officers were trying to evacuate students and teachers at the same time. Then, a full hour later, Border Patrol tactical teams arrived, made entry, and killed Ramos, he said.
Escalon could not explain what happened in the 10 minutes between the 911 call and Ramos entering the school. He also repeatedly denied to explain why, or how, it took an hour for specialist teams to arrive and breach the classroom. “You gotta understand, [it’s a] small town,” he said.
He added that the “majority” of gunfire was in Ramos’ initial moments inside the school.
“During the negotiations there wasn’t much gunfire other than trying to keep officers at bay. He did not respond [to negotiators],” he said.
The new information will do little to comfort traumatized witnesses and grieving families who said they saw several police officers standing around outside the school even as the shooting was underway.
Christopher Salazar, whose nephew Jose Flores was among the 19 young victims, said local cops were “standing back like they didn’t know what to do.”
“Instead of being in front and being for the kids, they weren’t,” he told The Daily Beast. “I am kind of angry. If I saw somebody with a gun going into Robb, I would have tried to do something.”
Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed, said he was outside the school and heard gunshots. “They said they rushed in and all that, we didn’t see that,” he told The New York Times.
Derek Sotelo, 26, who rushed over to the school after hearing gunshots from his nearby tire shop, said some fathers were yelling, “Give me the vest, I’ll go in there!”
“There were five or six of [us] fathers, hearing the gunshots, and [police officers] were telling us to move back,” Cazares added told the Washington Post. “We didn’t care about us. We wanted to storm the building. We were saying, ‘Let’s go,’ because that is how worried we were, and we wanted to get our babies out,” Cazares said.
The harrowing video from the scene seems to make the police response all the more baffling.
Distraught parents can be seen literally collapsing into themselves and wailing in anguish as officers refused to answer their pleas to go inside the building.
After one officer reassures them, “We’re taking care of it,” a crowd of angry parents yells that the gunman “isn’t dead yet.”
Multiple parents can be seen trying to break through the police cordon to reach their children, only to be held back by cops or relatives. Police officers’ matter-of-fact reassurances to parents are drowned out by piercing, agonized screams that sound more animal than human.
At one point, apparently at the end of the siege, a woman can be heard apparently screaming, “That’s how long y’all took?! That’s how long y’all took?!” while the children were inside “dying.”
The fate of the kids inside would not be known until later that day, when a tactical unit finally got a master key from the principal to enter the room, which had reportedly been tough to penetrate due to its steel door and cinder block construction. Ramos fired on officers as they entered but one officer from the Border Patrol’s tactical unit finally took the gunman down, officials said.
By that time, 19 children and two teachers were dead.
Amid frustrations with the amount of time it took police to reach the children, Texas DPS spokesperson Lt. Christopher Olivarez said that authorities were still piecing together “every single timeline.”
“I can tell you right now, as a father myself, I would want to go in too, but it’s a volatile situation,” Olivarez told CNN on Thursday. “We have an active shooter situation, we’re trying to preserve any further loss of life, and as much as they want to go into that school, we cannot have individuals go into that school especially if they’re not armed.”