Newly revealed images from the Uvalde, Texas school massacre show cops at the scene were well-armed and ready for a shootout — but stood waiting to take out the gunman.
The images, taken from Robb Elementary School surveillance video, show officers in tactical gear carrying ballistic shields as they aim long rifles toward a classroom where 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos was holed up with kids and teachers.
The scene is from 12:04 p.m. on May 24 — more than 45 minutes before officers went into the classroom and fatally shot Ramos, according to the Texas Tribune, which first published the images.
“They had the tools,” active shooter expert Terry Nichols told the Tribune. “Tactically, there’s lots of different ways you could tackle this … But it takes someone in charge, in front, making and executing decisions, and that simply did not happen.”
The images come as law enforcement is under mounting scrutiny for the botched response to the mass shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Much of the focus has been on Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, the on-scene commander, who made the decision to wait even as terrified kids called 911 from inside two adjoining classrooms with the shooter.
Ramos had crashed a pickup truck outside the school then strolled in through an unlocked door armed with an AR-15 style rifle at about 11:33 a.m. Once inside, he walked into unlocked Room 111 and opened fire there and Room 112, which was connected by an interior door, according to cops.
Three officers with handguns entered the building mere minutes after Ramos, followed by Arredondo and seven more officers, officials have said. When Ramos shot at the cops and grazed two of them, they all fell back and didn’t go in and fatally shoot the gunman until 12:50 p.m., according to law enforcement timelines.
Some officers were itching to get in during the grueling wait — one cop had a daughter inside the classroom and another had received a call from his wounded wife Eva Mireles, a teacher who ended up dying, according to the Tribune. Questions have swirled over if the slow response cost lives.
The Tribune report gave new details of the standoff, including how one officer with the state Department of Public Safety asked if kids were in the classroom as he arrived on the scene about 20 minutes after the situation began.
“It is unknown at this time,” a cop replied, according to the Tribune.
“Y’all don’t know if there’s kids in there?” the befuddled state officer said. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other cop replied, prompting the state officer to move to evacuate kids elsewhere in the building, the Tribune reported.
At 12:01 p.m., a state officer urged going in, calling it a “hostage rescue situation,” according to the Tribune.
“Don’t you think we should have a supervisor approve that?” another cop replied, according to the news site.
“He’s not my supervisor,” the state cop said. Shooting continued in the classroom in bursts several more times, and as late as 12:21 p.m. but officers still didn’t move in, according to the timeline.
The footage reviewed by the Tribune doesn’t show cops ever trying to breach the door, which some law enforcement officials now believe was unlocked the entire time. That contradicts statements of Arredondo, who had told the publication he and others had tried both doors to the interconnected classrooms.
Arredondo decided to wait for a key to the doors even though a Halligan tool used to get into locked doors was apparently available on the scene well before Ramos was finally killed and the carnage ended, the Tribune reported.