Uvalde police stopped Border Patrol SWAT team from entering school sooner: report

Elite Border Patrol team arrived nearly 40 minutes before gunman killed

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 27 May 2022 21:36 BST
Texas school shooting: Officials read 911 calls from massacre
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Members of the Uvalde Police Department temporarily kept the elite team of Border Patrol commandos who ultimately killed Salvador Ramos from entering Robb Elementary School, The New York Times reports, citing unnamed government sources.

Specially trained agents with the force’s Bortac SWAT team drove from the US-Mexico border to assist responding officers in Uvalde.

They arrived between noon and 12.10pm, nearly 40 minutes before the 18-year-old gunman was killed by law enforcement.

In that time period, nine different 911 calls went out from inside the school that students were trapped and being shot.

The group was baffled why local officers told them to temporarily wait, according to the newspaper, and unsure why the Uvalde PD’s own SWAT team was not already on the scene.

Bortac agents with ballistic shields were ultimately able to get inside the classroom where Ramos was hiding and fatally shoot him.

The Independent has reached out to Uvalde PD for comment.

It’s the latest sign of a tactical failure at the school that saw police take more than an hour to stop Ramos from the time they first encountered him.

When the 18-year-old first arrived on campus, an assigned school police officer was not on the scene and had to drive over.

The officer accidentally drove right past Ramos while he was still outside.

“That officer was not on scene, not on campus, but had heard the 911 call with a man with a gun, drove immediately to the area, sped to what he thought was the man with a gun, to the back of the school, to what turned out to be a teacher, but not the suspect,” Steven C McCraw, Director and Colonel of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference on Friday.

“In doing so, he drove right by the suspect, who was hunkered down behind the vehicle, where he began shooting at the school.”

The near-miss occurred before gunman Salvador Ramos was able to enter a classroom, where he barricaded himself inside and killed 19 students and two teachers.

The lack of a police presence on campus at the time of the shooting was all the more shocking because the Uvalde school district had trained extensively on active schooter scenarios and invested in security.

Two months before the shooting, officers practiced their response to just such an incident, and officials said at the time it was the latest in several active shooter trainings.

“Our overall goal is to train every Uvalde area law enforcement officer so that we can prepare as best as possible for any situation that may arise,” the school police unit wrote on Facebook at the time. “We have hosted several of these courses and plan to continue to do so.”

The school district also received $69,000 dollars from a $100m state grant programme for physical security enhancements including metal detectors, barriers, security systems, and an active-shooter alarm.

That’s in addition to doubling its security budget since 2017, investing in social media monitoring, and enhancing teacher security training in 2018 following another mass shooting in Texas that killed eight students and two teachers.

Once Ramos was able to make it inside, a group of 19 officers waited outside in a hallway for nearly an hour for backup and special equipment before breaching the classroom where Ramos was slaughtering students.

The police incident commander, the head of the school district’s police force, believed at the time the active shooter threat had subsided and given way to a barricaded individual scenario.

“Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision, period. There’s no excuse for that,” Mr McCraw said.

“In retrospect, from where I’m sitting right now, clearly there were kids in the room,” he added. “Clearly they’re at risk.”

The official declined to answer questions on Friday about whether police commanders were getting updates on the situation based on the 911 calls coming from inside.

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