'He Waited for a Key That Was Never Needed'

Texas official denounces police response in Uvalde school shooting
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2022 1:23 PM CDT
Police Response in Uvalde Was 'Abject Failure,' State Boss Says
Using photos of doors from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Steven McCraw testifies about the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday at the state capitol.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The police official in charge at Robb Elementary School while a gunman was killing students and teachers inside "decided to put the lives of officers ahead of the lives of children," the head of the Texas State Police said Tuesday. In testimony before a special state Senate committee in Austin, Steven McCraw delivered a forceful, scathing denunciation of the decisions by local police during the mass shooting in Uvalde—including waiting to storm the classrooms where the gunman was despite having ample weapons and equipment. School district Police Chief Pete Arredondo has said he was waiting for a key to the classroom door, but McCraw said Tuesday the door wasn't locked, the New York Times reports. In his appearance, McCraw addressed:

  • The locked-out explanation: "There’s no way for the subject to lock the door from the inside," McCraw said. In addition, a teacher had reported the locks broken before the May 24 shooting. The commander held up rushing the gunman, McCraw said, while "he waited for a key that was never needed."
  • Who's in charge: Arredondo has said he didn't consider himself in charge at the school. McCraw said Arredondo was the incident commander by virtue of being the most senior first responder with immediate jurisdiction over school campuses, per the Texas Tribune. He could have handed over command to state troopers or others as they arrived, the director said, but he didn't do that. "If you're going to issue commands, if you're going to direct action," McCraw said, "you're the on-scene commander." A lawyer for Arredondo did not answer the Times' request for comment.
  • The timeline: Officials have released conflicting information on the timing of events. McCraw said the gunman entered Robb Elementary and opened fire at 11:33am. Arredondo went into the building three minutes later. A Texas Ranger was inside by 11:54. It was 12:50 before officers who'd been assembled in a hallway stormed the classrooms and killed the gunman. "One hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds," McCraw said. "That's how long children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued."
  • Responsibility: "I don't mean to be hypercritical of the on-scene commander," McCraw said. "But those are the facts." And anyway, the failure of one police agency means all law enforcement officials failed, he said. The decisions made were in opposition to decades of training and widely accepted police policy for stopping a mass shooting. "The officers had weapons; the children had none," McCraw said. "The officers had body armor; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none." He added, "This set our profession back a decade."
(More Uvalde mass shooting stories.)

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