(Trends Wide) — In the three days since 19 children and two teachers were shot to death in a grisly primary school massacre, details of the horrors suffered by students, teachers and devastated family members have come out of the community of Uvalde, Texas.
What has not been explained as much is how the attacker was able to remain in the school for almost an hour before being shot down by law enforcement.
Investigators are still working to put together a timeline that explains how the 18-year-old was able to walk into Robb Elementary School with a rifle, enter without being stopped through an unlocked door, barricade himself inside a classroom and open fire on a class full of children.
“With all the different agencies that are involved, we are working on all the angles that are available,” Víctor Escalón, the South Texas regional director for the Department of Public Safety, told reporters Thursday. “We will not stop until we get all the answers we can,” he said during a news conference.
A scene of chaos and confusion began to form outside the school as news of the attack spread on Tuesday. Parents, desperate to get their children to safety, began showing up at the school, pleading with law enforcement to let them in as they grew increasingly frustrated with delays in dealing with the assailant, identified like Salvador Ramos, a resident of Uvalde.
One parent said he asked law enforcement to give him his gear. “I myself told one of the officers that if they didn’t want to come in, let me borrow their gun and vest and I’d go in myself to handle it, and they said no,” the father told Trends Wide. His son survived.
Multiple videos captured the frantic scene as parents pleaded with officers to come in or allow them to come in themselves. The video shows officers restraining the parents behind the yellow tape of a police line, refusing to let them in as crying and screaming can be heard in the background.
About an hour later, a US Border Patrol tactical team forced its way into the classroom and fatally shot the shooter, Escalon said.
Days after the confrontation, heartbroken community members remain frustrated by the delay.
“We deserve to know what happened. These parents deserve to know what happened,” Democratic state Sen. Ronald Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, told Trends Wide, adding, “I know there was a failure here.”
“At the end of the day, we have to find out for the future, so that this doesn’t happen again, what kind of failures occurred. And I think in this situation, standing on the sidelines was not the thing to do,” he said.
The Uvalde shooting is the deadliest in nearly a decade and is at least the 30th shooting at an elementary, middle and high school in 2022. The attack comes less than two weeks after a racist mass shooting in Buffalo. , New York, leaving Americans reeling from another act of mass violence and leading to renewed calls for gun law reform.
As investigators work to complete the timeline of the attack, the last remains of the victims were returned to families Thursday night. Six surviving victims remained hospitalized Thursday, including the attacker’s grandmother, who was shot in the face by her grandson before he headed to school.
What we know and don’t know about the timeline of the shooting
After shooting his grandmother at her home, Ramos drove to Robb Elementary School in Texas, where he crashed his truck into a nearby ditch, said Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety. It is not clear why he crashed.
The assailant shot two witnesses across the street before walking toward the school and shooting at the building, according to Escalon.
There were no officers outside the school to stop Ramos when he arrived, the sergeant said, contradicting earlier information from authorities that he had been “attacked” by a school resource officer before entering the school.
That earlier information “was not accurate,” Escalon said Thursday. The Texas shooter “initially entered unhindered,” he said.
Ramos then entered the building through an apparently unlocked door at 11:40 a.m.
The door he entered is normally locked, “unless you’re leaving to go home on the school bus,” former principal Ross McGlothlin told Trends Wide.
Inside the school, the shooter barricaded himself in two adjoining classrooms and fired more than 25 shots, Escalon said.
At 11:44 a.m., law enforcement arrived and entered the school. Three officers entered through the same door used by the attacker and four entered through a different entrance, DPS spokesman Chris Olivarez told Trends Wide. When they went to confront the young man, he shot them and they took cover.
Two of the responding officers received non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, according to Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez.
“It’s important for our community to know that our officers responded within minutes” along with school resource officers, he said.
Agents then requested additional tactical equipment and supplies such as bulletproof vests as they worked to evacuate faculty and students, Escalon said. About an hour later, a US Border Patrol tactical team was able to enter and kill Ramos.
Asked for more details at a news conference about what exactly the responding officers were doing in the hour-long period, Escalon declined to provide further information.
The grieving community faces the consequences
In the days following Tuesday’s massacre, Uvalde residents are still saturated with grief. For some, the devastating news continued to come when community members learned that the husband of one of the victims had also died this Thursday morning.
Joe Garcia died of a heart attack, just two days after his wife Irma was killed in the shooting, the Archdiocese of San Antonio told Trends Wide. Irma Garcia was a fourth-grade teacher who had been married to Joe for more than 25 years, according to a GoFundMe campaign posted by her cousin. The couple’s family says Joe died of a broken heart.
Edward Timothy Silva, a second grader who was at the school from Texas, told Trends Wide he remembers hiding behind desks in the dark hearing loud noises in the distance.
“I was wondering if he has to go to school next year,” said his mother Amberlynn Diaz. “And I don’t want her to be afraid of school. I want her to keep learning and not be afraid to go back to school. I want her to have a normal life again.”
Trends Wide’s Tina Burnside, Carroll Alvarado, Joe Sutton, Shimon Prokupecz, Travis Caldwell, Jamiel Lynch, Andy Rose, Amanda Musa, Alexa Miranda, Monica Serrano, Amanda Jackson, Caroll Alvarado, Eric Levenson and Holly Yan contributed to this report.