Crime /

Opinion: The 'Not As I Do' Uvalde Officer?

Questions remain about the timeline and conduct of officers who responded to the school shooting in Uvalde.

The police engaged. They pepper-sprayed, tasered, handcuffed, and pinned subjects to the ground — these descriptions were not the experience of the shooter at Robb Elementary School, but of the parents who arrived hoping to rescue their children during the agonizing one hour gap between the initial response of the first responders and the entry of Border Patrol tactical units who shot and killed the 18-year-old school shooter.

When the first videos of parents being held at taser and gunpoint reached the internet, an ethical dilemma arose. Legitimate tactical goals could warrant such drastic measures and few could argue the merits of a dozen untrained parents frantically running throughout the building while law enforcement officers attempted to pinpoint and neutralize the threat. We’re told this is the standard operating procedure.

And then additional testimony emerged. For about an hour, the shooter held control of the school while outside, terrified parents begged officers to do something.

More reports followed — while officers pinned one desperate parent to the ground and others brandished yellow tasers at the crowd, cops who had children in the school took action that their colleagues denied for other parents.

They entered the school. They located their children. They removed them from harm’s way. Is this also the standard operating procedure? Or, while acting under the color of law, did first responders prevent other parents from acting on their protective instincts in the same manner?

But the families of law enforcement officers weren’t spared either — the daughter of a sheriff’s deputy was killed.

One mother, Angeli Rose Gomez, drove 40 miles when she heard about the shooting. When she arrived “the police were doing nothing,” she said. After pleading with the officers to take action, she was placed in handcuffs by U.S. marshals for “intervening in an active investigation.”

Gomez says that others were pepper-sprayed and thrown to the ground while she convinced local officers to release her. She snuck away, found a gap in their perimeter, and jumped the school fence. She rescued her two children and escaped the school with them.

When buses arrived to transport students away from the school, one father was tasered as he tried to remove his students from the bus, Gomez said.

Other parents were not as fortunate. Javier Cazares arrived minutes after hearing about the shooting and found other fathers on the campus grounds. “There were five or six of us hearing the gunshots and police officers were telling us to move back,” he said. They wanted to enter the building, but they weren’t allowed. His daughter, Jacklyn, would later die at the hospital after sustaining gunshot wounds.

And if these previous statements do not evolve as others repeatedly have, this incident may be remembered as the time Uvalde officers told their neighbors to act “not as I do.”

The Timeline

Sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 11:28 a.m., 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face. By 11:30 a.m. Uvalde police had been notified that Ramos had crashed the vehicle he stole from his grandmother’s residence just outside the property of Robb Elementary School — he would not gain entry to the school for another eight minutes at 11:40 a.m. when he discovered an unlocked door on the west side of the school.

Initially, police claimed that a resource officer on the scene exchanged gunfire with Ramos at this point, heroically thwarting the shooter’s ability to inflict more carnage by causing him to drop an additional bag of ammunition. Now, Victor Escalon, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, says this was not the case. “It was reported that a school district officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” he said. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially,” he said.

Three minutes later, the school would announce they were on lockdown “due to gunshots in the area” — presumably unaware that the shooter was in their building.

At 11:44 a.m., local police entered the elementary school and see the suspect just 20 feet away. They follow him, apparently at a distance while taking cover from gunfire, and again watch him 20 feet away as he makes his way into a classroom down a side hallway. They do not push forward and radio for backup, Escalon said.

Initial reports suggest that the first two responding officers were wounded during this initial stage, but like many events that day, it remains unclear whether this is the case.

“We need tactical teams, we need equipment, we need specialty equipment, we need body armor, we need precision riflemen, we need negotiators,” they requested according to Escalon. In the meantime, the officers began evacuating students and teachers.

One hour later, that backup arrived.

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed. An additional 11 children and seven adults were injured but it remains unclear how many of those injuries were related to the direct actions of the shooter.

UPDATE: Despite previous comments from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Uvalde officials are now contradicting their earlier report that law enforcement officers entered the school to rescue their own children. On May 24, Lt. Olivarez said “there was some police officers, families trying to get their children out of the school because it was an active shooter situation.” Today, in a press conference, Chief Steve McCraw, the director of the Department of Public Safety claims that this was not the case.

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