During the tragic spring 2022 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, police say they waited an hour to enter the classroom and confront the shooter because they were scared of his AR-15, despite some officers possessing the same weapon, an investigation found.
Once the first officers arrived at Robb Elementary School and entered the hallway outside of the classroom where the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was holed up, they deliberated over their next course of action. “What’s the safest way to do this? I’m not trying to get clapped out,” one officer could be heard saying on radio communication obtained by the Texas Tribune.
Ramos reportedly fired shots at the officers outside of the classroom, and three of them were grazed in the head. They then retreated outside. Breathing heavily, Uvalde Police Department Sgt. Daniel Coronado grabbed his radio and warned the others. “I have a male subject with an AR,” he said, per the Texas news outlet.
“F***,” another officer on the opposite side of the building replied. Officers said they elected to wait for a Border Patrol SWAT team with more protective body armor, stronger shields, and more tactical training — even though the unit was based more than 60 miles away.
Ramos killed 19 students and two teachers on May 24, 2022, and injured 17 others. The law enforcement response to the mass shooting has been widely and harshly criticized for being weak, cowardly, and inept. Investigators are still confused about how nearly 400 officers could have failed to prevent the extent of the tragedy witnessed.
“You knew that it was definitely an AR,” Uvalde Police Department Sgt. Donald Page said in an interview with investigators after the shooting, per the New Republic. “There was no way of going in. … We had no choice but to wait and try to get something that had better coverage where we could actually stand up to him.”
That reasoning didn’t make sense to state Sen. Bob Hall (R). “This man had enough time to do it with his hands or a baseball bat, and so it’s not the gun. It’s the person,” Hall said in a hearing a month after the shooting, per the Texas Tribune.
Other law enforcement officers argued that had they gone into the classroom and confronted Ramos with bullets blazing, it would have led to more deaths.
“(Police) knew the monster behind the door was not the kid. It’s the rifle the kid is holding,” Jesse Rizo, who lost her 9-year-old niece Jackie Cazares in the shooting, said, according to the Texas-based website. “It’s the freaking AR that they’re afraid of … Their training doesn’t say sit back and wait.”
Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who led officers in their response to the shooting on that spring day, was fired in August, three months after the shooting.
Families of shooting survivors filed a $27 billion lawsuit in December against law enforcement over the response to the shooting. In November, parent Sandra Torres filed a federal lawsuit against local police, the school district, and the manufacturer of the gun used in the massacre.