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Texas Police Say ‘Wrong Decision’ Not to Break Into Classroom During Shooting

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(Bloomberg) -- Police in Texas didn’t try to break down the classroom door where 19 children and two teachers were killed on Tuesday because they believed the gunman was barricaded alone and that no one was at risk.

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It was the “wrong decision” not to break into the room, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday at a press conference near the school.

“From the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision,” he said. “It was the wrong decision.”

Police on Friday shared a detailed timeline of events from the massacre at Robb Elementary School. During an outdoor briefing that lasted about an hour, McCraw choked up several times as he spoke about children calling 911 to ask for help.

“It’s better that I read it than you listen to it,” an emotional McCraw said of the 911 calls. He then recounted several calls from children, some whispering, and one girl who “asked 911 to please send the police now.”

Police Response

Law-enforcement officials have faced mounting questions and outcry from parents and the community on the response to the mass shooting. About 80 minutes elapsed between when the shooter entered the school and when officers killed him. During that time, parents and onlookers outside the school urged police to go inside and confront the gunman, according to videos posted to social media.

Governor Greg Abbott, a pro-gun Republican, is scheduled to be in Uvalde for another briefing on Friday afternoon. President Joe Biden is set to visit the shooting victims’ families on Sunday.

According to the timeline provided by McCraw, the suspect, Salvador Ramos, entered the school at 11:33 a.m. The first officers then entered the school within two minutes, and eventually 19 officers were in the school. But none tried to breach the room initially. Officers entered the classroom and killed the suspect at 12:51 p.m.

The incident commander, chief of police of the Uvalde school district, made the decision not to try to break into the classroom where the shooter was barricaded in because it was believed that no children were at risk at that time, McCraw said. The incident commander then made the decision to wait for more tactical officers to arrive before trying to get into the room to confront the gunman. Officers entered after they got a key from the janitor, he said.

McCraw said there were still children alive inside the classroom the gunman was in and in the adjoining one, unbeknown to police. Several 911 calls were made by a teacher and students imploring the police for help. The callers said there were children in the room and that the shooter was still active.

“In retrospect, from where I’m sitting right now, clearly there was kids in the room, clearly they were at risk,” McCraw said.

100 Rounds Fired

At least two children inside the classroom made calls to 911. Those children did not die, according to the police.

“If I thought it would help, I would apologize,” McCraw said.

The shooter got into the school through an exterior door that had been propped open by a teacher, McCraw said. The suspect had purchased 1,657 rounds of ammunition and had 58 magazines at the school, McCraw said. He fired more than 100 rounds during his attack.

McCraw corrected some statements made earlier in the week. A school resource officer did not confront the suspect as was stated. He also said it was incorrect that Ramos, 18, had made public posts on Facebook about his plans. The comments were made in a Facebook messenger application, he said.

Police are investigating people who were in contact with Ramos and who may have been helping him purchase ammunition, as well as more than a thousand other leads about the shooting and Ramos’s motivations.

McCraw provided some information on the gunman’s digital footprint, saying that Ramos had asked his sister to buy him a gun last September but she refused. He also engaged with other users on Instagram about purchasing a gun.

Ramos used a debit card to purchase his guns, not a credit card, McCraw said.

“That means he had money in the bank,” McCraw said. “Why and how is being looked at right now.”

(Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.)

(Updates with details from children’s 911 calls in fifth paragraph.)

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