Biden meets families of Texas school shooting victims as US investigate police response

29 May 2022, 18:18 | Updated: 29 May 2022, 19:05

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden greet Mandy Gutierrez, the Principle of Robb Elementary School
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden greet Mandy Gutierrez, the Principle of Robb Elementary School. Picture: Getty

By Megan Hinton

The US justice department has announced they will investigate the response to the Texas school shooting, after it was revealed the gunman was barricaded inside for up to an hour before being killed.

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The 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos was inside the classroom at Robb Elementary School for 40 minutes to an hour before he was shot dead, officials said.

During that time he "horrifically and incomprehensibly" murdered 19 children and two teachers.

Families of the victims, many of whom were restrained as they tried to rescue their kids on Tuesday, say they are angry that police didn't storm inside the building.

The review comes amid mounting pressure and questions about the shifting and at times contradictory information about what happened in the shooting last Tuesday at Robb Elementary School and how police responded.

Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said the review would be conducted in a fair, impartial and independent manner and that the findings would be made public. The review is being conducted at the request of Uvalde's mayor, officials said.

Today US President Joe Biden is set to visit Uvalde, where be will meet the devastated families of the victims.

A survivor, who hid under the table with his friend, told KENS 5 that one of his classmates who yelled out "help" when police arrived was shot dead.

Read more: Heroic girl, 10, 'shot dead calling 911' as Texas gunman kills 21 in school massacre

“When the cops came, the cop said: 'Yell if you need help!' And one of the persons in my class said 'help.' The [shooter] overheard and he came in and shot her," the boy said.

Sources told the Mail Online that police were struggling to get into the classroom and needed a key to open the door.

The gunman's grandmother, who was shot in the face and remains in hospital, survived the shooting and called police before Ramos headed to the school.

He arrived at the school in Uvalde at 11.30am, crashing his car into a ditch. 

A school resource officer was at the scene but he failed to stop him from making his way inside.

Ramos shot two officers who arrived at the scene as he ran into the school, where he barricaded himself in the fourth grade classroom.

Shocking video shows some officers holding parents back, with one even pinned on the floor, as they tried to get inside to rescue their children.

"We're taking care of it!" yelled one officer who was holding parents back from the scene.

Eventually, a border patrol agent was able to get inside the building and the shooting was declared over at 1.06pm, the Mail Online said.

Read more: Texas school pupils' harrowing 911 calls emerge as official says cops 'wrong not to go in'

Javier Cazares, the father of fourth-grader Jacklyn Cazares, one of the 19 children killed in the massacre, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting.

He claims when he arrived police were still outside the building and he suggested charging in with other bystanders.

"Let's just rush in because the cops aren't doing anything like they are supposed to," he said.

"More could have been done."

"They were unprepared," he added.

Juan Carranza, a witness who lives across the road, said women shouted at officers to "Go in there! Go in there!" but they didn't enter.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told reporters that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him.

Read more: Widower of teacher shot dead in Texas massacre dies ‘of broken heart’ days after shooting

"The bottom line is law enforcement was there," Mr McCraw said. "

They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom."

However, a department spokesman said later that they could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman was in the school or when he was killed.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Mr Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner.

"There were more of them. There was just one of him," he said.

Mr McCraw praised the officers and denied there had been a failure - emphasising that the arriving officers "engaged him" and were able to "keep him pinned down in that location".

Asked about the delay, he said: "Obviously, this situation we failed in the sense that we didn't prevent this mass attack.

"But I can tell you those officers that arrived on the scene and put their lives in danger — they saved other kids.

"They kept him pinned down."

He said the team was "very proud" of that.

As darkness fell in Uvalde on Wednesday, families and individuals gathered to pay tribute to the victims, all of whom were in one classroom and included children under the age of 10.There were prayers as the crowd held pictures of those who died.

The massacre is the worst school shooting in the United States since Sandy Hook in 2012, when 20 children and six teachers were killed.