The timeline of events in the Robb Elementary School mass shooting was horrific from the beginning. At 11 AM on Tuesday morning, the shooter logged on to Facebook, where he posted a now-removed message announcing that he was going to kill his grandmother. He followed this up a short while later with a second post saying: “I shot my grandmother.” At around 11:15, he posted again, saying: “I am going to shoot an elementary school.”
At 11:30, someone called the police to report that a man had crashed a gray Ford pickup into a wall near Robb Elementary School. Within the next two minutes, a school safety officer “engaged” with the shooter, who was carrying a rifle and wearing a “tactical vest” filled with ammunition. Police arrived on the scene, and two officers exchanged fire with the shooter. Those two officers were injured in this exchange. At some point during these confrontations, the shooter entered the school, proceeded down multiple hallways, and entered a classroom. He shut the door, locked it, and began killing children and teachers. A general lockdown of the school was announced at 11:43 AM. It’s not until 1:06 PM that police announced an “all clear” and said that the suspect “is in custody.”
This is the timeline of events as presented in a press event on Wednesday by the Texas Department of Public Safety, an event at which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praised the Uvalde police and Border Patrol agents involved.
But a day later, everything on that timeline seems to be in question. “We’re trying to establish every single timeline as far as how long the shooter was inside the classroom, how long did the shooting take place, but as of right now, we have not been able to establish that,” a Department of Safety spokesman said Thursday morning.
How wrong was the version that was presented to the public after the shooting? This is a new article from The Wall Street Journal.
The gunman behind the mass shooting at an elementary school here lingered outside the building for 12 minutes firing shots before walking into the school and barricading in a classroom where he killed 19 children and two teachers, authorities said in a news conference Thursday laying out a new timeline of events. …
DPS officials previously said an armed school officer confronted Ramos as he arrived at the school. [A regional director for the Texas Department of Safety] said Thursday that information was incorrect and no one encountered Ramos as he arrived at the school.
The Uvalde Police Department serves a low-income community of just 13,000 people. However, that department advertises itself as having a SWAT Team. It also sent out promotional information in the past year showing its officers supposedly being trained to respond to an active shooter situation.
The training they received would be something very close to that described in this report at Policeforum.org titled “The Police Response to Active Shooter Incidents.” It’s training that became standard in the wake of an ineffective response at Columbine High School, where waiting for a large team to assemble and get organized gave the shooters time to carry out more murders unobstructed.
Here is what that presentation says about waiting around for some specialized team to intervene in an active shooter situation:
In the Columbine incident, police from various Denver-area agencies responded but did not enter the school to stop the shooters for more than 30 minutes. That reflected their training, which was based on the concepts of containing the situation and waiting for SWAT team members to arrive, mobilize, and respond. This type of training reflected the thinking at the time. … Columbine brought a realization by law enforcement leaders that a much faster response was needed for active-shooter incidents.
In response to an active shooter situation, many police departments encourage the first officer on the scene—even if they’re alone, even if they are a School Resource Officer with limited experience—to immediately move on the shooter. That’s especially true in cases where “an officer arrives at the scene and can hear shooting, screams, or other indications that the perpetrator is actively shooting or threatening victims.”
Some police departments suggest that officers wait until a minimum number of officers, usually two to four, have arrived to form a “contact team.” However, even these departments recommend moving on the shooter sooner “if it is apparent that a full contact team cannot be assembled quickly.”
“Quickly” is the key word. All training around an active shooter situation emphasizes that preventing a massacre requires fast action, even if that action puts officers at risk. It’s safe to say that no police department is trained to sit on its hands and wait for the Border Patrol to put together a team, then drive 75 miles to react an hour after the incident began.
According to the police timeline, an announcement of the active shooter situation went out at 12:17 PM, informing the community that “There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site.” It was presumably this announcement, or calls made by teachers after the 11:43 AM lockdown, that brought parents to the school, desperate to get their kids out. However, in videos from the scene, bursts of gunfire can still be heard from inside the school. This certainly seems to indicate that the shooter was still killing children or teachers in the classroom, well after that door was shut.
The initial report that the classroom door had been “barricaded” and that Border Patrol officers “broke it down” with “difficulty” seems to have been replaced with the Border Patrol simply asking for a key and unlocking the door. The initial report that the shooter was killed by the Border Patrol team has also come into question. Even the initial report that two officers were “shot” before the shooter entered the classroom seems to be in question.
At this point, it’s hard to tell just what happened and who—other than the shooter—is at fault for the deaths at Robb Elementary School. But there seem to be discrepancies in the timing and sequence of events as reported by the police, and definite issues with how the police handled the situation once they were aware of the shooter.
At best, the shooter was confronted by three armed officers, and still made his way into a classroom that he was able to secure with the simple act of turning the lock. He was then given somewhere over 40 minutes to execute children and teachers while police milled about outside. Some of the parents who arrived, begging to get into classrooms, likely heard the shots that killed their child.
Advocates suggesting that the solution to school shootings is having more guns on site should note that the shooter had no problem confronting armed officers, including officers specifically trained to deal with an active shooter event.
Those suggesting that the solution to this problem is to have “just one door” to a school might want to consider that locking just one door is exactly what the shooter did before picking off children at his leisure. Also, that idea is ridiculous.
Putting together an accurate timeline may take days. An accurate report of what happened may never come.
Meanwhile, the literal heartbreak is still ongoing.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.