The incident was one of three missed opportunities to thwart the gunman before he was able to enter the building, all of which were highlighted in a report from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center released Wednesday. The gunman ultimately carried out a mass shooting rampage that killed 19 students and two adults on May 24.
“A Uvalde PD officer reported that he was at the crash site and observed the suspect carrying a rifle prior to the suspect entering the west hall exterior door,” the report said. “The UPD officer did not hear a response and turned to get confirmation from his supervisor.”
“When he turned back to address the suspect, the suspect had already entered the west hall exterior door at 11:33:00. The officer was justified in using deadly force to stop the attacker,” the report continued.
Before traveling to the school, the gunman shot his grandmother, crashed a car near the school, and fired shots outside the school, according to police. This is why officers had responded before he opened fire upon schoolchildren.
A second missed opportunity referenced in the report involved one of the first responding officers on the scene missing the gunman while he was in the parking lot. The officer had cruised through the parking at such a “high rate of speed” that he was unable to recognize the gun-wielding assailant in the parking lot.
“If the officer had driven more slowly or had parked his car at the edge of the school property and approached on foot, he might have seen the suspect and been able to engage him before the suspect entered the building,” the report said.
A third instance highlighted in the report was the failure to lock the school door. An external door at the school had been propped open by a rock placed by a teacher that day. This appears to have been a “common practice at this school,” the report noted. The teacher kicked the rock out to shut the door before the gunman entered, but “she did not check to see if the door was locked,” per the report.
“This again highlights the importance of not circumventing access control procedures. Even if the teacher had checked to see if the door was locked, it appears that she did not have the proper key or tool to engage the locking mechanism on the door,” the report continued.
In addition to the three missed opportunities to hamper the gunman before he entered the school, the report also scrutinized the response inside the building.
At the heart of intense scrutiny into the police response are accounts from law enforcement that responding officers waited nearly an hour to enter a classroom where the shooter was barricaded inside. Children in the classroom with the gunman had been on the phone with dispatchers pleading for intervention, but the messages appear not to have been relayed to the officers standing outside the classroom, according to a state senator.
Part of the reason given by the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, for the delayed entry was the lack of a key for room 111 or room 112, but the report cast doubt on the notion that the doors were locked. The two doors were connected to each other side by side. Eventually, law enforcement received the keys, entered the room with the shooter, and killed the 18-year-old gunman.
“The only way to engage the lock is to insert a key from the hallway side of the door. At no point is the suspect observed entering the hallway and engaging the locking mechanism. Based upon this, we believe that the lock to room 111 was never engaged,” the report said.
Another problem with the response inside the building cited in the report centered on “losing momentum.” Officers entered the building a few minutes after the gunman did, converging upon rooms 111 and 112, near where the gunman was located at 11:37 a.m. local time, but retreated once the gunman fired at them.
“Maintaining position or even pushing forward to a better spot to deliver accurate return fire would have undoubtedly been dangerous, and there would have been a high probability that some of the officers would have been shot or even killed. However, the officers also would likely have been able to stop the attacker,” the report said. “It is not surprising that officers who had never been shot at before would be overwhelmed by the directed gunfire.”
Local law enforcement has faced a firestorm over its response to the shooting, including inconsistencies in the accounting of events, tweaking of details about whether the gunman donned body armor, and more, according to the Washington Post. Multiple investigations into the shooting and the law enforcement response are underway.
Much of the criticism has been aimed at Arredondo, who was supposed to be the commanding officer at the time and oversaw the delayed response. Shortly after the shooting, he was sworn on to the city council, but he recently resigned from that post.