Armed cops at US school 'within 20 mins'

·3-min read

Multiple police officers armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield waited in a school hallway for nearly an hour while a gunman carried out a massacre of 19 children and two teachers, according to local media reports.

The officers with heavier firepower and tactical equipment were there within 19 minutes of the gunman arriving on campus - earlier than previously known, according to documents reviewed by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV in Texas.

The outlets' report, which did not indicate the source of the documents, intensifies the anguish and questions over why police did not act sooner to stop the May 24 slaughter in the Robb Elementary School classroom.

The information is to be presented to a public Texas Senate hearing in Austin on Tuesday.

Investigators say the latest information indicates officers had more than enough firepower and protection to take down the gunman long before they finally did, the outlets reported.

The timeline the American-Statesman and KVUE cited from the documents included footage from inside the school that showed the 18-year-old gunman casually entering a rear door at 11.33am, walking to a classroom and immediately spraying gunfire before barricading himself in.

Video showed 11 officers entering the school three minutes later, the outlets reported.

School district police Chief Pete Arredondo called the Uvalde Police Department landline and reported their suspect had "shot a lot" with an AR-15-style rifle and outgunned the officers at the school, who he said were armed only with pistols, the outlets reported.

Four minutes later, at 11.44am, body camera video recorded the sound of more gunshots.

At 11.52am, the first ballistic shield arrived as officers grew impatient to act.

Another officer with a ballistic shield arrived at 12.03pm, and another came with a shield two minutes later.

About 30 minutes before officers finally breached the classroom door at 12.50pm, Arredondo is heard wondering aloud if the gunman could be shot through a window.

Only at 12.46pm did the police chief tell tactical team members to breach the door when ready, the outlets reported.

In the past week, the San Antonio Express-News reported video surveillance footage from the school did not show officers attempting to open the door leading to the classrooms where the massacre was happening.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported two Uvalde city police officers told a sheriff's deputy they passed up a fleeting chance to shoot the gunman while he was still outside because they feared they would hit children.

Delays in the law enforcement response have been the focus of the federal, state and local investigation of the massacre and its aftermath.

Questions about the law enforcement response began days after the massacre.

Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on May 27 Arredondo made "the wrong decision" when he chose not to storm the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as trapped students inside two classrooms were desperately calling 911 for help.

Arredondo later said he did not consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.

State police initially said the gunman entered through an exterior door propped open by a teacher.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said on May 31 the teacher closed the door after realising a shooter was on campus, but it did not lock as it should have.

Lyliana Garcia, 16, the daughter of teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the shooting, and Jose Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later, spoke to the committee on Monday.

"The knowledge of being orphaned at such a young age is inconceivable," she told the school board.

"I would like to share a quote of one of my sister's agonising cries. She said, 'My mom died protecting her students, but who was protecting my mom?'."

A legislative committee looking at law enforcement response completed another day of closed-door hearings in Uvalde on Monday.

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