UVALDE, Texas – Stealthily speaking in a whisper, a fourth-grader called police. Around him, in room 112 of Robb Elementary School, were the motionless bodies of his classmates and dozens of worn-out ammunition fired by a gunman who had been inside the school for half an hour.
He whispered to a 911 operator shortly after noon who was in the classroom with the gunman. She called again. And again. “Please send the police now,” he pleaded.
But they were already there, waiting in the hallway of a school outside. And they had been there for over an hour.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. shoot shortly after 11:30 p.m.
“It was a wrong decision, period,” State Police Director Steven C. McCraw said Friday after reading transcripts of children’s 911 calls and a chronology of police inaction for nearly 90 minutes. horror at Uvalde Elementary School, Texas.
After days of shifting explanations and conflicting accounts, the revelations answered many of the basic questions about how the massacre had taken place. But they raised the possibility that even more painful than if the police had done more, and faster, not all those who died – 19 children and two teachers – would have lost their lives.
The frank and sudden revelation of Mr. McCraw that a police commander decided not to enter the classroom even though the gunman kept firing caused an outburst of screams and emotional questioning. Sometimes Mr. McCraw struggled to be heard. In others, he seemed defeated, his voice broken.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier this week had said police “showed incredible courage running toward the shootings,” said Friday at a news conference in Uvalde that he had been “deceived” about the events and the police response. and added that he was “absolutely livid.”
Mr. Abbott, who earlier hours abandoned plans to appear at a National Rifle Association convention in Houston, told reporters that state lawmakers would review the tragedy and determine what went wrong. “Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is yes,” he said.
For Robb Elementary School children, Tuesday began as a day of celebrations and special treats: movies in the classrooms, photos with the family in front of a bright curtain, and awards ceremonies for students finishing their school year. course in two days, while the proud relatives took their hands. as they walked down the aisles.
Gemma López had a gymnastics class that morning and an awards ceremony. She watched “The Jungle Cruise” with her roommates in classroom 108. Some of the students finished work, others played, “to do what we do,” as she put it.
Then he heard a loud explosion in the distance, like firecrackers. He realized something was wrong because he saw the police outside the classroom window. And the explosion got louder.
“Everyone was scared and all, and I told them to shut up,” said 10-year-old Gemma. One of her classmates thought it might be a joke and laughed. Gemma said she had shut up. That’s why they had done exercises. He turned off the classroom lights, as he had been taught to do.
“I heard a lot more shots, and then I cried a little,” she said, “and my best friend Sophie was crying by my side, too.”
The 18-year-old gunman, who crashed his grandmother’s truck at 11:28 a.m. into a ditch next to the school, began firing outside, more than 20 times, first to spectators. and then in the classroom windows. A police officer from the Uvalde school district arrived at the scene but did not see the gunman and passed him.
Minutes later, the gunman was inside and opened a side door that should have been locked but had been opened by a teacher who had gone outside to retrieve his cell phone.
Jasmine Carrillo, 29, was working in the cafeteria with about 40 sophomores and two teachers when the attack began. The lights dimmed, part of a school-wide blockade that had come into effect.
Once she entered the fourth-grade building, Ms. Carrillo said, the shooter knocked and knocked on the door of her 10-year-old son Mario’s classroom, asking to be allowed inside. But he could not open the closed door.
Instead, he moved on to others.
In the connected classrooms, Classroom 111 and Classroom 112, a couple of teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, had also been screening a film, “Lilo & Stitch,” while students were finishing classes. One of the teachers moved in to close the door and seal the classroom from the hallway. But the gunman was already there.
Miah Cerrillo, 11, watched as her teacher walked back into the classroom and the gunman followed her. He first shot one teacher and then the other. He said he shot many students in his classroom, and then went to the one next door and opened fire, said his grandfather, José Veloz, 71, who relayed the girl’s story.
Then he started firing wildly.
The terrifying echo of at least 100 shots ran through the school as the children in the classrooms and the two teachers there were shot and fell to the ground. It was 11:33 in the morning
Not all the children inside died at that horrible moment. Several survived and gathered in fear alongside their lame friends. One of the children fell on Miah’s chest while lying on the floor, her grandfather said. Terrified that she would return to her class, Miah said, she took the blood of a classmate who fell dead and rubbed it. Then she killed herself.
Two minutes after the gunman entered the classroom for the first time, several police officers from the Uvalde Police Department rushed to the school. A couple of officers approached the closed classroom door when they heard gunfire inside. The two were beaten – scraped wounds, as their wounds would later be described – when bullets pierced the door and hit them in the hallway.
The minutes have passed. Miah heard the gunman enter the next room and put on “very sad music,” as she described it to her family.
Inside the room, the gunman fired 16 more shots. More agents arrived outside. At noon, there were 19 agents from different agencies in the hallways, and many more outside the school.
At 12:10 p.m., one of the students who called 911 reported that eight or nine students were still alive, Mr. McCraw.
Parents gathered near the site and around Uvalde, a close-knit community of 15,000 people west of San Antonio, desperately searching for any word from their children inside, increasingly dismayed by the silence of the texts. sent and unanswered.
“I prayed with four women that everything would be fine,” said Lupe Leija, 50, whose son Samuel, 8, was inside. In the middle of the pandemic, his wife, Claudia, sent a message to her son’s teacher, “Are the children okay?”
In less than a minute, he got the answer he wanted: “Yes, we are.”
Other parents were increasingly angry and urged officers who appeared to be about to end the shooting that they could see and feel clearly that it was still going on.
But the commander of the scene, Chief Pete Arredondo of the Uvalde School District Police Department, determined that the nature of the situation did not call for officers to be apprehended, as prescribed by active shooter training during decades, from the Columbine High School Massacre. in 1999.
Mr. McCraw said the commander had determined that the gunman was no longer an active shooter, but a suspicious barricade: “We had time, there were no children at risk,” he said. The commander ordered shields and other specialized tactical equipment to enter the room.
During the long, unbearable minutes, they waited.
“They were there without the proper equipment,” said Javier Cazares, who arrived distressed at the elementary school, panicking at his daughter, Jackie Cazares, who was trapped inside. He watched as the shields were introduced slowly and not at the same time. “One guy came in with one and minutes later another came in,” he said.
Chief Arredondo did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
At 12.15pm, specialized Border Patrol officers arrived at the school after driving for about 40 minutes from where they had been parked near the border with Mexico.
Federal agents arrived at a scene of chaos – people pulling children out the windows while local police, carrying only pistols and a few rifles, tried to secure a perimeter. Specially trained officers did not understand why they were left waiting, a law enforcement official said.
At 12:19, another girl called from room 111, but quickly hung up when another student told her to do so. Two minutes later, there was another call, and three shots were heard.
More time passed. Another call reached 911 from one of the two girls at 12:47 p.m. At the time, the children had been trapped with the gunman for more than an hour.
The girl in Room 112 begged, “Please send the police now,” according to the transcript read by Mr. McCraw.
A few minutes later, around 12:50 p.m., specially trained Border Patrol officers opened the locked door of a school janitor’s keys and burst into the room, firing 27 times into the classroom. and killing the gunman.
Eight other spent cartridges were found in the hallway, fired by law enforcement. During the massacre, the gunman fired 142 times, Mr. McCraw, using an AR-15-style rifle, one of two he had bought a few days earlier with a debit card, just after his 18th birthday.
Jackie, who always wanted to be the center of attention, the “little diva” of her family, died in the shooting, along with her partner and cousin, Annabelle Rodriguez, a quiet and honorary student .
Miah, the 11-year-old boy whose classmate died next to him …