Armed Law Enforcement Was on the Scene in Uvalde. They Couldn’t Stop the Shooter

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Uvalde - Credit: (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Uvalde - Credit: (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Armed law enforcement officers were present on Tuesday as a shooter entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and slaughtered 21 people, including 19 young children. Witnesses say they weren’t doing enough to stop the shooter.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that onlookers urged police to go into the school and stop the massacre, to no avail. “Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted, according to one witness. Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed, said police were congregated outside the building when he arrived, prompting him to suggest other bystanders rush to try to stop the carnage themselves. “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”

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“There were more of them,” Cazares added. “There was just one of him.”

“They were just angry, especially the dads,” Derek Sotelo, who headed to the school after hearing gunfire from his tire shop nearby, told The New York Times. “We were wondering, ‘What the heck is going on? Are they going in?’ The dads were saying, ‘Give me the vest, I’ll go in there!’”

Angeli Rose Gomez, whose children are students at Robb Elementary, says she was put in handcuffs and told she was being arrested for intervening in an investigation for urging law enforcement to enter the school, according to The Wall Street Journal. She says she then convinced local police officers she knew to set have her set free, hopped a fence, went into the school and retrieved her two children. “The police were doing nothing,” she said, according to the Journal. “They were just standing outside the fence. They weren’t going in there or running anywhere.”

When asked on Thursday about the witnesses who said they were urging law enforcement to go inside the school, a Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety said only that the department hasn’t “verified” whether what the witnesses said is accurate.

He deflected other questions about what exactly happened when the shooter was in the school. “We will circle back with you,” he said.

The revelations about the apparent inaction of law enforcement as conservatives who oppose common-sense gun control measures have advocated for stocking schools with armed guards, and in many cases armed teachers, to prevent mass shootings. The massacre in Uvalde on Tuesday is proof positive that doing so doesn’t guarantee anything, and that if someone who is heavily armed wants to wreak havoc, they’re going to be able to do so.

Reports have varied as to what actually took place on Tuesday. Officials have said both that the shooter, Salvador Ramos, “encountered” an armed officer outside the school, and also that Ramos was “not confronted” by Uvalde police before entering the school. Victor Escalon of the TDPS said on Thursday that Ramos lingered outside of school firing shots for 12 minutes before ultimately walking in unobstructed.

The Times notes that an officer responded from nearby after calls came into 911, but that by the time he reached the school Ramos was in the process of entering. More police responded minutes later, but Ramos had already barricaded himself inside a classroom. He shot two Uvalde police officers who attempted to enter the classroom, injuring them. Ramos then continued to shoot through the wall at law enforcement while slaughtering those inside the classroom, according to the Times. Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said 40 minutes to an hour passed from when Ramos encountered the officer outside the school to when he was killed by a tactical team.

Ramos had turned 18 days earlier and bought two AR-15-style rifles shortly after his birthday. The guns were bought legally. Governor Greg Abbott signed a law last summer allowing guns to be carried without a permit. Abbott said on Wednesday that instead of gun reform the government needs to “target that mental health challenge and do something about it.” Abbott has also noted that Ramos had no known history with mental health issues.

Conservatives pushing for more guns in schools is part of a broader call to “harden” them against attacks. Fox News has brought on people to suggest everything from installing “man traps” triggered by “trip wires,” to hanging up ballistic blankets, to erecting a “ring of steel” around schools. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was in Uvalde on Wednesday to argue that schools should have bulletproof glass, bulletproof doors, and only one entrance.

Schools having only one door — which sounds like quite a fire hazard! — and most of the other conservative solutions to the mass shooting epidemic are as ludicrous as they are impractical, especially considering the Uvalde school district already had a multi-faceted safety plan in place. NBC News reported on Wednesday that the district had doubled its safety plan in recent years in response to the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School in Houston. The district had its own police force. It had threat assessment teams working at every school. There was a system to report threats. There were fences around schools. Teachers were required to lock classroom doors.

It didn’t matter at Robb Elementary on Tuesday. Nor did it matter that an armed security officer was outside the school, or that police were quick to respond. All that mattered was that Salvador Ramos was able to buy some guns after he turned 18, and that he wanted to use them to kill a bunch of schoolchildren.

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