A new report claims that police never tried to enter the Uvalde classroom in which 19 children died last month.
The report in the San Antonio Express-News adds a new wrinkle to an already convoluted story of the police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School, which has been riddled with contradictions and contrary clarifications from the beginning.
The newspaper reported that surveillance footage indicates that not once in the 77-minute period between when gunman Salvador Ramos entered the classroom and a team of federal agents stormed the room did police actually try the door. The report cites “a law enforcement source close to the investigation.”
According to the report, all of the doors at the school are supposed to automatically lock when they are closed. That means the only way in is with a key, the source said.
However, the door might never have locked at all due to a malfunction — the same kind of malfunction that allowed Ramos to enter the school in the first place. (A story that a teacher had left a door propped open that Ramos used was corrected in later reports. The teacher had closed the door, but it failed to lock, the Express-News reported June 1.)
The source said told the Express-News that although police may have assumed incorrectly that the door was locked.
According to the Express-News, it was unknown whether the door was ever locked during the ordeal.
“Police might have assumed the door was locked, but the latest evidence suggests it may have been open the whole time, possibly due to a malfunction, the source said,” the newspaper reported.
However, according to the Express-News: “Investigators believe the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at the school on May 24 could not have locked the door to the connected classrooms from the inside, according to the source.”
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The source, according to the Express-News, said that surveillance footage shows Ramos entering classroom 111. Two minutes after Ramos entered the school, three Uvalde police officers responded by chasing him.
Ramos fired inside classrooms 111 and 112, which adjoin, went into the hallway briefly and then returned to the classroom, the report said.
According to the report, Ramos fired at officers through the closed door, causing minor wounds from flying debris.
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pedro Arredondo has told the online news outlet the Texas Tribune in an article published June 9 that he was in the hallway outside of the room, trying to find a way in.
He said that a custodian brought first one set of keys, then another that he used to try to find a master key, the Tribune reported.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo told the Tribune.
However, he was not trying to open the door to the classroom where Ramos was, but another nearby.
In his interview with the Tribune, Arredondo said police did not have the tactical card to play of kicking in the door to confront Ramos because the door was reinforced with a sturdy steel jamb.
The Tribune report stated that Arredondo was eventually called by officers who said they had found a key that could open the door. that a key was found to open the door, allowing the federal agents to enter and kill Ramos, ending the ordeal.
Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, initially said that “each door can lock from the inside” and after Ramos entered “he locked the door.”
That information has since changed, the source told the Express-News.
Democratic state Rep. Roland Gutierrez was stunned by the revelation about the door.
“If that’s true, we probably could have saved three or four extra children,” Gutierrez said. “The teacher possibly could have been saved. We know two kids had gunshot wounds that they bled out from.
“We know that one teacher was alive when they pulled her out and she died on the way to the hospital,” he said, saying it would be “negligence” if law enforcement waited more than an hour outside a door that could have been opened.
“What were the failures?” Gutierrez said. “Were they communication failures? Were they human error failures? Were they system failures? Or was it simply something as simple as not turning a doorknob? We need to know that. And the fact that they are hiding all of this information from the public and community in Uvalde is just a tragedy.”
According to the Express-News, the source said officers had access to a crowbar-like tool called a “Halligan bar” — which is used by firefighters and law enforcement for forcible entries — that could have been used to open the door.