Texas

Uvalde gunman walked through apparently unlocked door, DPS says

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.

Victor Escalon, Regional Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety South, speaks to the press during a news conference outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. Escalon says the 18-year-old gunman who slaughtered 21 people at an elementary school entered the building “unobstructed” through a door that was apparently unlocked.

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The 18-year-old gunman who killed 21 people at a Uvalde elementary school walked in unimpeded through an apparently unlocked door, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

Also, the gunman, Salvador Ramos, was in the building for over an hour before he was killed by law enforcement officers. The amount of time that elapsed has stirred anger and questions among family members, who demanded to know why they did not storm the place and put a stop to the rampage more quickly.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine said the 18-year-old entered Robb Elementary School and began his rampage at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday. A Border Patrol tactical unit began trying to get inside an hour later, and at 12:58 p.m., radio chatter noted he was dead.

The school normally has an armed school safety officer. But when Ramos arrived on Tuesday, "there was not an officer, readily available, armed," and the gunman entered the building "unobstructed," said Victor Escalon, a regional director at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Law enforcement authorities on Thursday faced mounting questions and anger over the amount of time that elapsed before they stormed the place and put a stop to the rampage that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Many other details of the case and the police response remained murky. The motive for the massacre — the nation's deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying 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.

"Go in there! Go in there!" women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner: "There were more of them. There was just one of him.”

Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school as the massacre unfolded. When he arrived, he saw two officers outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before the arrival of officers with shields, equipped to confront the gunman, he said.

As more parents flocked to the school, he and others pressed police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four gunshots before he and the others were ordered back to a parking lot.

"A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs.' Their response was, ‘We can't do our jobs because you guys are interfering,'" Cazares said.

Ramos 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, according to authorities and witnesses.

As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke of condition of anonymity. Investigators have concluded that school officer was not positioned between the school and Ramos, leaving him unable to confront the shooter before he entered the building, the law enforcement official said.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required