Two years before the massacre at Robb Elementary School that left 19 fourth-graders and their two teachers dead, the Uvalde Police Department boasted online about having its own SWAT team.
The department posted a picture on Facebook of nine heavily armed officers with the caption “Meet Our SWAT Team.”
The unit was making visits throughout the community that day “to familiarize themselves with layouts of our local schools and businesses,” according to the February 2020 post.
But when terror came to the tiny Texas town, it’s not clear if tactical unit that seemingly trained for just such a moment turned out to respond, a law enforcement source said.
“There were so many officers, so many agencies involved,” the source said.
The state’s Department of Public Safety, which is probing the response to the shooting, is still trying to determine which agencies were on the scene and the role each played. In Texas, it’s not uncommon for multiple law enforcement officials from different agencies to respond to an incident together.
“When you have so many agencies in an active situation, you have officers inside, those officers are responsible for containing the threat,” the source said. “And you have officers outside containing the perimeter.”
The latest from the Texas school shooting
Parents of students at the school complained that the cops outside during the incident prevented them from entering the building. One frantic mom was even handcuffed as she begged cops to enter the building at take out 18-year-old Salvator Ramos.
The first responders wrongly believing the situation had gone from an “active shooter” to a “barricaded” scenario, and waited more than an hour after the shooting started before they entered the classroom and shot the shooter.
The source said Uvalde police officers were among the makeshift group that stormed the classroom with a hero US Customs and Border Protection agent. Some of the Uvalde SWAT team may have been with them, but investigators are still putting the pieces together.
Uvalde residents are also asking questions.
“Maybe I am wrong but I haven’t seen or heard from our Uvalde PD at all?” resident Norma Hidalgo posted on Facebook early Saturday, noting that they’ve been talked about but no one from the department has addressed the public. “I really hope our Uvalde Police Department will come forth and just talk to us. To everyone. Help our community heal.”
Friday afternoon, Hidalgo shared the department’s February 2020 post, asking, “We have a SWAT team?”
Uvalde, a town of about 16,000, is spending $4.4 million, or 38%, of its $11.5 million budget for 2021-2022 on its 40-member police force.