Witnesses question law enforcement response to Texas school shooting

When news of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, spread, concerned parents and locals gathered on-site, where they said they begged law enforcement to charge into the building and considered entering themselves while the gunman was inside the school for at least 40 minutes.

Since Tuesday’s massacre, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, conflicting narratives have emerged about law enforcement’s response.

Javier Cazares, the father of fourth grader Jacklyn Cazares, who died in the attack, said he ran to the school after learning of the shooting and saw some officers still outside the building.

Upset that authorities did not appear to be moving into the building, Cazares said he and other bystanders wanted to charge into the school themselves. 

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to do,” he said to The Associated Press and later confirmed with NBC News.

“More could have been done,” Cazares added. “They were unprepared.”

A distraught man paces at Robb Elementary School
A distraught man paces at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News via ZUMA Press Wire ; Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images

Video footage from outside the school Tuesday appears to show distressed parents and locals reacting to news of the shooting. 

One woman is heard yelling: “Get in! Get in! What is the f——— deal?”

“They’re all in there, the cops aren’t doing s— except standing outside,” a man is heard saying. “You know they’re little kids, right? Little kids, they don’t know how to defend themselves.”

It’s not clear when the video was filmed or whether officers were inside the building at the time.

Robb Elementary serves second through fourth grade students in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, about 75 miles from the Mexico border, home to a large Latino community.

Another video appears to show multiple parents outside the school, some yelling with armed officers in military fatigues in front of them.

Witness Juan Carranza, 24, told The Associated Press that women by the school shouted, “Go in there! Go in there,” at officers after the attack began. He did not see those officers go in, he said.

State and federal law enforcement officials said Thursday they don’t have a timeline yet on the precise sequence of events from the moment the gunman crashed his grandmother’s vehicle until he was ultimately fatally shot by a Border Patrol officer.

Crime scene tape surrounds Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022.
Crime scene tape surrounds Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday. Liz Moskowitz for NBC News

Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw said in a news conference Wednesday that the shooter was at the school for up to an hour before law enforcement breached the classroom.

“It’s going to be within, like 40 minutes within an hour,” McCraw said.

“The bottom line is that law enforcement was there,” he continued. “They did engage immediately. They did contain him in the classroom. They put a tactical stack together in a very orderly way and of course breached and assaulted the individual.” 

Uvalde City Councilmember Everardo Zamora told NBC’s “TODAY” show Thursday that while people outside accused police of inaction, officers were already in the building.

Zamora said he arrived at the school around 11:45 a.m. and already saw numerous officers and Border Patrol agents trying to push people back and prevent them from entering the building.

“This whole place was full of police officers,” he said. 

“They were already in there. I seen them running in there,” Zamora added.

NBC News reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety overnight seeking clarification on the timeline and comment on criticism over law enforcement’s initial response to the shooting.

In the Tuesday attack, gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, allegedly shot his grandmother, got in a car that crashed into a ditch by Robb Elementary and went inside the school with an AR-15 style long rifle, officials said Wednesday.

As he made his way to the west side of the campus, an officer with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District “engaged” him, but it’s unclear what that interaction was, McCraw said Wednesday.

“Gunfire was not exchanged” and “the subject was able to make it into the school,” McCraw said. It’s not clear why a school resource officer didn’t open fire. 

A policeman talks to people asking for information outside of the Robb Elementary School
A policeman talks to people asking for information outside of the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022.Dario Lopez-Mills / AP

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday that the gunman did exchange gunfire with two police officers who arrived at the scene. Both of those officers were shot.  

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the gunman entered the school through a back door, walked down two short hallways and came into two adjoining classrooms where he locked the door and opened fire. 

Officers from multiple units and agencies — including local police and a tactical team from U.S. Customs and Border Protection — arrived at the scene but couldn’t enter the classroom. 

The door to the classroom finally was opened when the principal produced a master key, state and federal law enforcement officials said.

It’s unclear why officers couldn’t break down the door or how much time it took before they got inside the classroom.

The shooter was ultimately killed when members of a CBP tactical team entered the room and shot him.

Those who were killed and hurt were all in one classroom, Olivarez told CNN.

Chance Aguirre, 9, a third grade student at Robb Elementary recounted how he and fellow students hid in the cafeteria when they heard shots fired. 

“Everybody was scared. We were all panicking because we didn’t know what was really happening,” he said in an account filmed by NBC affiliate WOAI of San Antonio.

He described seeing what felt like “thousands of police and border patrol” entering the cafeteria while he and others were hiding behind a stage in the room. “We had to leave the school,” he said. 

Police have not shared a motive in the attack and said the gunman had no known history of mental illness or criminal history.

However, Abbott revealed he shared three warnings on Facebook shortly before the shooting. The warnings that were sent in a Facebook message before the shooting weren’t posted publicly — they were sent in private one-to-one messages discovered after the shooting, Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said in a tweet.

The shooter had purchased guns and 375 rounds of ammunition just days after his 18th birthday, McCraw said. 

The investigation into the shooting, the worst since Sandy Hook in 2012 in Newton, Connecticut, is ongoing.

On Thursday, the Uvalde Leader-News, a local newspaper, published a harrowing front page: an almost entirely black sheet save for the date “May 24, 2022” to mark the day 21 lives were lost in the school shooting. 

Uvalde Justice of the Peace Eulalio Diaz said on MSNBC Thursday afternoon that “all 21 victims will be back in Uvalde this afternoon, back with their families, back where they belong,” a sign the identification process is wrapping up.

“Of course, it doesn’t stop,” he continued. “Because at that point the families have to make arrangements with the funeral homes, and the grieving process continues.”

Even in the wake of tragedy, there is little respite from gun threats.

Police in the Dallas suburb of Richardson found a pistol and a replica AR-15 in a teen’s car parked outside a high school Wednesday. That teen was arrested and charged with unlawful carrying of weapons in a weapon-free school zone, a felony, according to the Richardson Police Department.