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Uvalde school where 21 killed in mass shooting to be demolished
22 June 2022, 06:45
Officials in Texas have said there was enough police and firepower at the scene of last month's school massacre in Uvalde to have ended it three minutes after the gunman entered the building.
That was according to Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, who spoke to state officials during a Texas Senate committee hearing on Tuesday.
Within the first 3 minutes of the attack, there were at least nine officers out in the hallway, he said. There were at least two armed with rifles and a body shield, McCraw said. They also had bulletproof vests.
The Senate hearing was told that instead - officers with rifles stood in a hallway for nearly an hour before they finally stormed the classroom.
The Texas DPS director accused Uvalde school police chief Pete Arredondo of placing 'the lives of officers before the lives of children'
"The officers had weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none," McCraw said.
He added that law enforcement officers on scene searched for a master key to the classroom but never actually tried to open the door. That is until officers ultimately confronted the shooter more than an hour after the attack began. He believes the door was likely unlocked the entire time.
officers wanted to approach the gunman earlier, including a school district police officer whose wife was killed in the massacre.
That officer, Ruben Ruiz, received a call from his wife, Eva Mireles, who told him that she had been shot.
"He tried to move forward into the hallway," McCraw said Tuesday at a Senate hearing. "He was detained and they took his gun away from him and escorted him off the scene."
Mireles later died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Uvalde lashed out Tuesday, telling residents at a city council meeting he's tired of being kept in the dark about what evidence has been uncovered.
At the meeting, Mayor Don McLaughlin also said Robb Elementary, where the massacre occurred May 24, will be razed.
"You could never ask a child to go back or a teacher to go back to that school. Ever," he said.
McLaughlin was critical of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and its leader, Col. Steven McCraw.
The Texas Rangers, a DPS agency, are leading the investigation into the shooting and McLaughlin told residents he was upset that he and other city officials have never been briefed on how the investigation is going.
He went on to say he thinks McCraw is making misleading statements to help distance the actions of the state troopers and Texas Rangers who responded to the shooting.
"Colonel McCraw has continued to, whether you want to call it ... lie, leak, mislead or mistake information in order to distance his own troopers and Rangers from the response. Every briefing he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers that were on scene that day," McLaughlin said.
Nineteen children and two teachers died in the massacre. The teenage gunman, Salvador Ramos, was shot dead by law enforcement.
Delays in the law enforcement response have been the focus of the federal, state and local investigation of the massacre and its aftermath.
Questions about the law enforcement response began days after the massacre. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on May 27 that Mr Arredondo made "the wrong decision" when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as trapped fourth graders inside two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help.
Mr Arredondo later said he did not consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. Mr Arredondo has declined repeated requests for comment to The Associated Press.
State police initially said the gunman entered through an exterior door that had been propped open by a teacher.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said on May 31 that the teacher closed the door after realising a shooter was on campus, but it did not lock as it should have.
On June 2, state senator Roland Gutierrez said it was a "system failure" that school district police Chief Pete Arredondo received no word of the pleas for help from people inside Robb Elementary School on May 24 because he had no two-way radio link with city police.
"I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls," Mr Gutierrez said during a news conference.
The Uvalde school board heard from members of the public Monday, including relatives of those killed in the attack.
They took turns criticising the police response and what they described as lax security measures at the school in general.
Lyliana Garcia, 16, is the daughter of teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the shooting, and Jose Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later. They had four children - a Marine, a college student, a seventh grader, and Lyliana.
"The knowledge of being orphaned at such a young age is inconceivable," she told the school board.
"These are the consequences my family has to suffer due to the lack of due diligence. I would like to share a quote of one of my sister's agonising cries. She said: 'My mom died protecting her students, but who was protecting my mom?'"