Breaking News on Texas Elementary School Shooting

UVALDE, Texas — Furtively speaking in a whisper, a fourth-grade girl called police. All around her, in room 112 at Robb Elementary School, were the still bodies of her classmates and dozens of shell casings fired by a gunman who had already been inside the school for half an hour.

He whispered to a 911 operator shortly after noon that he was in the classroom with the gunman. She called back. And again. “Please send the police now,” she begged.

But they were already there, waiting in a school hallway just outside. And they had been there for over an hour.

Police officers stopped as they heard sporadic gunshots behind the door, and were ordered by the on-site commander not to rush the pair of connected classrooms where the gunman had barricaded himself in and began shooting shortly after 11:30 a.m.

“It was the wrong decision, period,” State Police Director Steven C. McCraw said Friday after reading transcripts of children’s 911 calls and a timeline of police inaction during nearly 90 minutes of horror. at elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

After days of shifting explanations and conflicting accounts, the revelations answered many of the basic questions about how the massacre came about. But they raised the even more painful possibility that if the police had done more and faster, not all of those who died (19 children and two teachers) would have lost their lives.

Mr. McCraw’s sudden and frank disclosure that a police commander chose not to enter the classroom even as the gunman continued to fire provoked an eruption of screaming and emotional questions. At times, Mr. McCraw struggled to be heard. In others, he seemed overwhelmed, his voice cracking.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier in the week had said police “showed amazing courage running into the gunfire,” said Friday at a news conference in Uvalde that he had been “misled” about the events and the police response. and he added that he was “absolutely furious”.

Abbott, who hours earlier dropped plans to appear at a National Rifle Association convention in Houston, told reporters 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 the children of Robb Elementary School, Tuesday began as a day of celebrations and special giveaways: movies in the classrooms, family photos in front of a glittery curtain, and award ceremonies for students who finished their year in two days. while family members proudly held their hands. as they walked through the halls.

Gemma Lopez had gym class that morning and an awards ceremony. She watched “The Jungle Cruise” with her fourth-grade classmates in room 108. Some of the students finished work, others played, “doing whatever it is we do,” as she put it.

Then he heard a loud bang in the distance, like firecrackers. She realized that something was wrong because she saw the police outside the classroom window. And the blast grew louder.

“Everyone was scared and everything, 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 he had shut her up. They had done drills for this. She turned off the lights in the classroom, as she had been taught to do.

“I heard a lot more gunshots, and then I was crying a little bit,” she said, “and my best friend Sophie was crying next to me too.”

The 18-year-old gunman, who crashed his grandmother’s truck at 11:28 a.m. into a ditch near the school, began shooting outside, more than 20 times, first at bystanders and then at classroom windows. A police officer from the Uvalde School District arrived on the scene but did not see the gunman and walked past him.

Minutes later, the gunman was inside, opening a side door that should have been locked, but left unlocked by a teacher who had gone out to get her cell phone.

Jasmine Carrillo, 29, was working in the cafeteria with about 40 second graders and two teachers when the attack began. The lights dimmed, part of a full school lockdown that had gone into effect.

Once he entered the fourth-grade building, Carrillo said, the shooter banged and kicked on his 10-year-old son Mario’s classroom door, demanding to be let in. But he couldn’t open the locked door.

Instead, he moved on to others.

In the connecting classrooms, Room 111 and Room 112, a pair of teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, had also been showing a movie, “Lilo & Stitch,” while students finished their lessons. One of the teachers moved to close the door and seal off the classroom from the hallway. But the gunman was already there.

Miah Cerrillo, 11, watched as her teacher backed into the classroom and the gunman followed her. She shot first one teacher and then the other. She said she shot many students in her classroom, and then went to the next door and opened fire, her grandfather, Jose Veloz, 71, said, relaying the girl’s account.

He then started shooting wildly.

The terrifying echo of at least 100 gunshots echoed through the school as children in the classrooms and the two teachers were shot and fell to the ground. it was 11:33

Not all the children inside died in that horrible moment. Several survived and huddled in fear next to their lifeless friends. One of the children fell on Miah’s chest as she lay on the ground, her grandfather said. Terrified that she would return to her classroom, she Miah said, she took the blood of a classmate who dropped dead and rubbed it on him. So she played dead herself.

Two minutes after the gunman first entered the two classrooms, several officers from the Uvalde Police Department ran into the school. A pair of officers approached the closed classroom door as gunshots rang out inside. The two were beaten (scratch wounds, as their injuries would later be described) when bullets came through the door and hit them in the hallway.

Minutes passed. Miah heard the gunman go into the next room and put on “really sad music,” as he described it to her family.

Inside the room, the gunman fired 16 more shots. More officers arrived outside. By noon, there were 19 officers 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, McCraw said.

Parents gathered near the grounds and around Uvalde, a tight-knit community of 15,000 west of San Antonio, desperately searching for any word from their children inside, increasingly distraught over the silence of text messages sent and no response.

“I prayed with four ladies that everything would go well,” said Lupe Leija, 50, whose 8-year-old son Samuel was inside. In the midst of the chaos, his wife, Claudia, texted her son’s teacher: “Are the kids okay?”

In less than a minute, he got the answer he wanted: “Yes, we are.”

Other parents grew increasingly angry, urging officers who seemed to be circling to end the shooting that they could clearly see and hear was still going on.

But the commander on the scene, Chief Pete Arredondo of the Uvalde School District Police Department, determined that the nature of the situation did not require officers to rush, as active shooter training has prescribed for decades, since the Columbine High School massacre. in 1999.

McCraw said the commander had determined the gunman was no longer an active shooter, but a dug-in suspect: “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, excruciating minutes, they waited for him.

“They were there without the proper equipment,” said Javier Cazares, who arrived at the elementary school distraught, panicked by his daughter, Jackie Cazares, who was trapped inside. He watched as the shields were brought up slowly and not at the same time. “A guy walked in with one and minutes later another guy came in,” he said.

Chief Arredondo did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

At 12:15 p.m., specialized Border Patrol officers arrived at the school after driving about 40 minutes from where they had been stationed near the Mexican border.

Federal agents arrived at a scene of chaos: people throwing children out of windows as local police, carrying only handguns and a few rifles, tried to secure a perimeter. The specially trained officers didn’t understand why they were kept waiting, a law enforcement official said.

At 12:19 pm, 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 911 call from one of the two girls at 12:47 p.m. By then, the boys had been trapped with the gunman for more than an hour.

The girl in room 112 implored, “Please send the police now,” according to the transcript read by McCraw.

A few minutes later, around 12:50 pm, specially trained Border Patrol officers opened a school custodian’s locked door and burst into the room. shooting 27 times inside the classroom and killing the gunman.

Another eight spent cartridges were found in the hallway, fired by police. During the course of the massacre, the gunman fired 142 shots, McCraw said, using an AR-15-style rifle, one of two he had purchased several days earlier with a debit card, just after his 18th birthday.

Jackie, who always wanted to be the center of attention, the “little diva” for her family, was killed in the shooting, along with her classmate and cousin, Annabelle Rodriguez, a quiet student on the honor roll.

Miah, the 11-year-old girl whose classmate died next to her, survived, as did the two boys who silently called 911.

But Miah’s family hasn’t been able to hug her because of bullet fragments embedded in her back and neck, said an aunt, Kimberly Veloz. She still needs to see a specialist in San Antonio to get them removed, but she doesn’t want to leave the house, she said.

“She still thinks he’s going to come get her,” Veloz said. “We told him that he is dead. But she doesn’t understand.”

Mario, the 10-year-old boy whose mother worked in the cafeteria, has been refusing to eat since Tuesday and can’t sleep at night.

The academic year at Uvalde is over, but Mario’s mother, Mrs. Carrillo, said her son, fearful of another attack, does not want to go back to school.

She’s had to be honest with him, that the friends he made at Robb Elementary, his friend Jose Flores, the schoolmates he hoped to see again in the fall, were gone.

“You are with God now,” he told her.

Frances Robles, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs Y Serge F. Kovaleski contributed report. susan c beach Kirsten Noyes and jack begg contributed research.

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