The decision by the on-site commander to delay breaching the classroom of a Texas elementary school during the mass shooting this week was the “wrong decision,” authorities said Friday. Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classrooms during the attack on Robb Elementary School for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open a door and confront the gunman, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference.
The on-site commander — identified by the Associated Press as the school district’s police chief — believed 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was barricaded in a classroom in Uvalde during Tuesday’s attack and that the children were not at risk, McCraw said.
“He was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize” to get into the classroom, McCraw said.
“Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,” he said.
Friday’s briefing came after authorities spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about the 90 minutes that elapsed between the time the gunman entered the school and when U.S. Border Patrol agents unlocked the classroom door and killed him. The gunman killed 19 students and two teachers during the attack.
McCraw said there was a barrage of gunfire shortly after the gunman entered the classroom where they killed him but that shots were “sporadic” for much of the 48 minutes while officers waited outside the hallway. He said investigators do not know if or how many children died during those 48 minutes.
Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including a girl who pleaded: “Please send the police now,” McCraw said.
Contrary to earlier statements by officials, a school district police officer was not inside the school when the gunman arrived. When that officer did respond, he unknowingly drove past the gunman, who was crouched behind a car parked outside and firing at the building, McCraw said.
The motive for the massacre — the nation’s deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying the gunman had no known criminal or mental health history.