Authorities in Texas announced Thursday afternoon the gunman who killed 19 children and two elementary school teachers this week entered the school unobstructed. Victor Escalon, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the gunman entered Robb Elementary in the town of Uvalde through a door that was apparently unlocked.
The announcement came amid mounting questions over how much time elapsed before authorities put a stop to the rampage. The motive for the massacre — the nation’s deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago — also remained under investigation, with authorities saying 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
During the siege, which ended when a U.S. Border Patrol team burst in and shot the gunman to death, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.
In a statement Thursday, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said that officers responded to the shooting “within minutes.” Escalon said local officers entered the school, were fired at and took cover.
“I know words will never ease the pain that we are all suffering,” Rodriguez said, “but I hope you will join me in taking some solace in knowing that the pain comes from the fact that we all have such deep love for all the victims who have been taken from us, those who are recovering, and those who only time and love will continue to heal.”
On Wednesday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when the gunman opened fire on a school security officer to when the tactical team shot him. On Thursday, Escalon said the gunman wasn’t confronted by an officer before entering the school.
Investigators were combing through video footage from inside and outside of the school, Escalon said.
Before Tuesday’s attack, the gunman shot and wounded his grandmother at the home they shared. Escalon said Thursday she was alive and in stable condition.
The gunman then crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a funeral home, who ran away uninjured, Escalon said.
The gunman climbed over a fence and opened fire at the school from a parking lot. He then entered the school at 11:40 a.m. and fired “numerous rounds,” Escalon said.
“Four minutes later, local police departments … are inside, making entry,” Escalon said. “They hear gunfire. They take rounds. They move back, get cover and during that time they approach where the suspect is at.”
He said officers didn’t initially enter the classroom the gunman entered because he fired at them. The officers called for backup and started evacuating the rest of the school.
“There’s a lot going on,” Escalon said.
Late Thursday afternoon, the White House announced President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Uvalde on Sunday “to grieve with the community.” Details about the Bidens’ visit will be released in the coming days, the White House said.
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