Texas officials are still trying to put together a timeline of what happened in Uvalde school shooting - CNN

4 weeks ago 24

(CNN)Today should have been a joyous day at Robb Elementary School as kids celebrated the last day of classes before summer vacation.

Instead, the families of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, are planning funerals. Hundreds of classmates are traumatized by a heinous slaughter.

And nearly 48 hours later, serious questions still remain about how an 18-year-old with an assault-style rifle got inside the school, what law enforcement did in response and how the gunman was able to remain inside for as long as an hour before a tactical team finally forced its way in and killed him.

      "We're trying to establish every single timeline as far as how long the shooter was inside the classroom, how long did the shooting take place, but as of right now, we have not been able to establish that," Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Chris Olivarez said Thursday morning.

          The massacre marked the deadliest US school shooting in nearly a decade and at least the 30th school shooting at a K-12 school in 2022. And it has thrown the nation -- where active shooter attacks jumped more than 50% last year -- yet again into a fury of anger and grief amid renewed calls for gun reform.

          Olivarez offered several more details Thursday about the attack. He said the gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, first shot his grandmother, drove to the school grounds and then gained access to the school through an unlocked door.

          Uvalde school shooting suspect was a loner who bought two assault rifles for his 18th birthday

          A school resource officer who was on the scene was armed, but it was unclear if the officer fired or what he did in response to the suspect's entry, Olivarez said. "We're trying to establish exactly what was his role and how did he encounter the shooter," he said. Two Uvalde Police officers followed behind the gunman into the school and were both shot, he said.

          The gunman then entered a classroom, which was attached to an adjoining classroom, and barricaded himself inside for about 40 to 60 minutes, Olivarez said. All of the 21 killed and 17 injured were inside those classrooms, officials have said.

          "We're still trying to establish if that classroom was locked, and if it was locked, was there some type of barricade, was there some type of locking mechanism that did not allow those officers to make entry," he said.

          The lengthy barricade situation raises serious questions about how police responded to the shooting. Since the Columbine school shooting of 1999, emergency protocol in such situations is to end the threat as quickly as possible because fatalities occur in seconds to minutes.

          "It's almost incomprehensible for me to come up with a rational explanation as to why you would wait 30 minutes to an hour to get in there," said Andrew McCabe, CNN senior law enforcement analyst. "The door breaching, if it's just a locked door, that doesn't take 30 minutes to get into."

          What happened outside the school

          A Border Patrol tactical team was ultimately able to force their way inside the school and kill the suspect, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said.

          US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said about 80 to 100 agents responded to the shooting and acted immediately.

          "They didn't hesitate. They came up with a plan. They entered that classroom and they took care of the situation as quickly as they possibly could," Ortiz said.

          The lengthy response time, as well as a lack of communication to the public, created a chaotic situation outside the school as parents arrived, desperate to know if their kids were still alive. One father said he heard gunshots and demanded to go inside.

          Ominous texts. An earlier shooting. What we know about the Texas elementary school massacre that killed 21 people

          "There were five or six of (us) fathers, hearing the gunshots, and (police officers) were telling us to move back," Javier Cazares, the father of a student at Robb Elementary, told The Washington Post. "We didn't care about us. We wanted to storm the building. We were saying, 'Let's go,' because that is how worried we were, and we wanted to get our babies out."

          Later, Cazares learned that his 9-year-old daughter, Jacklyn, was one of the victims.

          Videos posted to social media show adults confronting law enforcement officers and urging them to go inside and find the gunman or let them go in themselves. The timeline of the video, and whether the gunman was still alive at that point, is not clear.

          Olivarez, the DPS spokesman, said the officers on scene kept people back and set up a perimeter to prevent further loss of life. Still, he said he understood the parents' frustrations.

          "I can tell you right now as a father myself, I wanted to go in too," he said. "But it's a volatile situation."

          What happened inside the classrooms

          Police officers walk past a makeshift memorial for the shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.

          Victims' family members and first responders offered first descriptions of some of the horrors inside the classrooms.

          Angel Garza, a first responder and father of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza, arrived at the school Tuesday and gave medical aid to a girl covered head-to-toe in blood. The girl said she'd seen her best friend killed -- and the best friend's name was Amerie.

          "How you are going to look at this girl and shoot her?" Garza told CNN on Wednesday. "My baby, how do you shoot my baby?"

          Amerie had just gotten a cell phone two weeks ago for her 10th birthday, he said. He learned from two other students that Amerie had tried to call 911 during the shooting.

          "She just died trying to save her classmates," Garza said. "She just wanted to save everyone."

          Chief Jason Owens, who heads the Del Rio sector for Border Patrol, told CNN that the uniforms of the agents who responded to the scene were "covered in blood."

          "I took my agents back to the Uvalde station. I had to bring new uniforms for them to change into," he said.

          Of the 21 victims, 19 have been released to funeral homes, according to Judge Lalo Diaz with the Uvalde County Justice of the Peace. The final two victims will be released later this afternoon, he said.

          School district spent over $450,000 on security

          The two-page document on the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District website lists 21 different measures it says it has undertaken for the safety of the school community, ranging from an app for reporting bullying to physical security measures like fencing and a buzz-in door system. It's not clear to what degree the plan was developed with active shooters in mind.

          Records show the district spent about $200,000 on security and monitoring services in 2017-18 and that figure rose to more than $450,000 in the 2019-20 school year.

          Uvalde school district had detailed security plan in place at time of elementary school massacre

          The district employed four police officers, including a chief, detective, and two officers. The district also had additional security staff "who patrol door entrances, parking lots and perimeters of the campuses."

          The plan included a "threat reporting system" for "students, parents, staff, and community members" to share information that is deemed "troubling," which could include information "about weapons, threats, fights, drugs, self- harm, suicide or disclosures made that are concerning." The policy states reports could be made through the district site or to a district staff member.

          The security plan also refers to lockdown drills. "Students receive training on the Standard Response Protocol for lockout, lockdown, evacuate, shelter, and hold. In addition, drills are held for each of these emergency actions on a regular basis."

          Two other schools, Uvalde High School and Anthon Elementary, have security vestibules, though it is not clear if Robb had one.

          Families identify loved ones they lost

          People attend a vigil Wednesday for those killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

          The two teachers who were killed, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, had co-taught together for five years.

          Garcia, a wife and mother to four children, was "sweet, kind, loving," according to a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise funds for funeral expenses and family needs. "She sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom. She was a hero. She was loved by many and will truly be missed," the campaign said.

          Mireles had been teaching for 17 years and "was a vivacious soul" who "spread laughter and joy everywhere she went," relative Amber Ybarra told CNN.

          What we know about the victims at Robb Elementary School

          "She made you feel like she was only teaching your child," said Erica Torres, whose son Stanley was in her third and fourth grade classes. "Like, there's no other students but him. She made you feel so good."

          José Flores Jr., 10, was also killed in the shooting, his father José Flores Sr. told CNN. He was his mother's "little shadow," she said. José Jr. was bursting with energy and loved to play baseball and video games, his father said.

          Lexi Rubio, 10, had made the All-A honor roll and gotten a good citizen award just hours before she was shot and killed, her parents Felix and Kimberly Rubio told CNN.

          "We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this was goodbye," Kimberly Rubio wrote in a post on Facebook.

          Nine-year-old Eliana "Ellie" Garcia, was among those killed, family members confirmed to CNN affiliate KHOU. She loved the movie "Encanto," cheerleading and basketball and dreamed of becoming a teacher, her grandparents, Rogelio Lugo and Nelda Lugo, told the LA Times.

          Third-grader Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10, and her cousin died Tuesday, her family members confirmed to CNN affiliate KHOU. The cousin's name has not been released.

          Shooter was a loner who bought two rifles a week earlier

          The gunman, Ramos, was a local high school dropout with no criminal history and no known mental health history, officials said. He had just turned 18 and legally bought two AR-15-style rifles and ammunition for his birthday. Those who knew him described him as a loner with few, if any, friends, who was often in fights.

          Before he began his rampage, Ramos allegedly messaged a girl who lives in Germany about his intentions.

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          He complained his grandmother was "on the phone with AT&T abojt (sic) my phone," according to screenshots reviewed by CNN and an interview with the 15-year-old girl, whose mother gave permission for her to be interviewed.

          "It's annoying," he texted her.

          Minutes later, he texted: "I just shot my grandma in her head," immediately followed by the message, "Ima go shoot up a(n) elementary school rn (right now)."

          The shooter shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face before driving to Robb Elementary, where he crashed his car in a nearby ditch, authorities say. The grandmother was in serious condition as of Wednesday, officials said.

            His grandfather didn't know Ramos had guns, he said Wednesday.

            "If I had known, I would have reported him," Rolando Reyes said.

            CNN's Dakin Andone, Peter Nickeas, Tina Burnside, Jamiel Lynch, Andy Rose, Elizabeth Joseph, Sara Smart, Amanda Jackson, Caroll Alvarado, Isabelle Chapman, Daniel A. Medina, Curt Devine, Priscilla Alvarez, Joe Sutton, Jennifer Henderson and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.

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