In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, law enforcement officers are facing scrutiny over the timeline of events and their response. New details suggest that after being fired upon, police at the scene retreated and waited up to an hour before a tactical unit led by federal Border Patrol agents went in and killed the shooter.
Ambiguity in the official version of events is increasing, with clarifications from authorities contradicting many earlier statements.
The early timeline of events contained numerous questionable statements regarding actions taken and the order in which they occurred. In an effort to elucidate the situation, Regional Director of the South Texas Department of Public Safety, Victor Escalon Jr., offered to clear up confusion but in doing so may have added more fuel to the fire.
Officials had initially stated that the shooter had been fired upon by a school police officer; this was later changed to say the officer had engaged the shooter but not opened fire. Escalon said both of these versions were incorrect, and that “there was not an officer readily available.”
Escalon offered further uncertainty by first stating that officers were “inside making entry” and only retreated after taking fire; he followed up by saying “They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire.”
Since the 1999 Columbine killings, the standard policy in active shooter scenarios has been that the first two to five officers on the scene should enter and engage. “In any active shooter situation, the protocol is to address the threat. You go at the threat, you go at where the gunfire is at because you’re trying to stop the threat,” Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez outlined during a Thursday interview.
Prior to Columbine, the policy had been to wait for specialized units. The FBI’s active shooter program emphasizes that officers should engage immediately. Retired FBI official, Katherine Schweit, said, “Under all circumstances, that [tackling the shooter] is their first priority.” She continued, “anybody with a gun who’s killed people is an active threat until they’re neutralized.”
Reports so far are muddled and appear to suggest this protocol was not followed, despite onlookers and parents begging officers at the scene to enter the school building. One mother at the school, Angeli Rose Gomez, reported that she had been handcuffed by federal marshals and that after the shooter had been killed, other parents were pepper-sprayed and even tasered when trying to retrieve their children.
Olivarez also attempted to explain why the officers on the scene retreated after being fired upon. He said, “At that point, if they pursued it any further — not knowing where the suspect was at — they could’ve been shot; they could’ve been killed and, at that point, that gunman would have the opportunity to kill other people inside that school.”
No Easy Answers for Now
Uvalde Police Department Chief Daniel Rodriguez on Thursday released a statement saying that officers responded to reports of a shooter “within minutes.” He further wrote, “This is an ongoing investigation that is being led by the Texas Rangers. I understand questions are surfacing regarding the details of what occurred. I know answers will not come fast enough during this trying time, but rest assured that with completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can.”
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