It was the “wrong decision” not to storm the classroom where a gunman was holed up killing primary school children, a Texas official admitted.
The extraordinary admission came on Friday at a highly-charged press conference in Uvalde, Texas, where parents have been demanding answers about why 19 students and two teachers lost their lives in the deadly rampage on Tuesday.
Some reports said it was up to an hour before a special Border Patrol team killed the gunman. Parents had to be restrained outside, desperately wanting to enter the school themselves to take action.
Questions over officers’ response grow – live updates from Texas shooting
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw admitted to journalists there had been a mistake.
He said the on-scene commander had judged the situation at the Robb Elementary School as “no longer an active shooter situation” and that they were instead dealing with “a barricaded subject”.
However, he added: “Obviously there were children in that classroom that were at risk and it was, in fact, still an active shooter situation.
“From the benefit of hindsight, of course, it was not the right decision, it was the wrong decision.”
‘Not here to defend what happened’
At the press conference, he revealed people outside could hear “children begging for help” inside the school building.
One journalist demanded to know if Mr McCraw – who at times appeared to be choked – had any words for the grieving parents.
He replied: “What do I have to say to the parents? I don’t have anything to say to the parents, other than what has happened.
“We are not here to defend what happened. We are here to report the facts.”
One reporter pushed further, and asked if the parents were owed an apology, because not everything was done that could have been.
“If I thought it would help, I would apologise,” said Mr McCraw.
“When you go back to the timeline – I am not defending anything – but when you go back to the timeline there was a barrage of hundreds of rounds pumped in in four minutes in those two classrooms.
“Any firing afterwards was sporadic, it was at the door.
“So the belief is that there may not be anybody living anymore and the subject is now trying to keep enforcement at bay.”
Highschool dropout Salvador Ramos went on his murderous rampage after hinting to followers on his Instagram page that he might do something.
What social media posts tell us about Ramos
Mr McCraw said investigations had revealed a conversation in the days leading up to the shooting that read:
“Word on the street is that you are buying a gun.”
“I just bought something. It’s far end.”
Then came this mysterious post:
“Ten more days”.
In response, someone had replied: “You gonna shoot up the school or something?”
Ramos replied: “No, stop asking dumb questions – and you’ll see.”
Mr McCraw also revealed 1,657 rounds and 60 magazines had been found at the school after the atrocity.