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Uvalde officer asked permission to shoot gunman outside school but got no answer, report finds

Ulvade Active Shooter Scenes PL TT 02.jpg
Courtesy of Pete Luna
/
Uvalde Leader News
Authorities prepare to evacuate students and teachers after a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24, 2022.

An Uvalde police officer asked for a supervisor’s permission to shoot the gunman who would soon kill 21 people at Robb Elementary School in May before he entered the building, but the supervisor did not hear the request or responded too late, according to a report released Wednesday evaluating the law enforcement response to the shooting.

The request from the Uvalde officer, who was outside the school, about a minute before the gunman entered Robb Elementary had not been previously reported. The officer was reported to have been afraid of possibly shooting children while attempting to take out the gunman, according to the report released Wednesday by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, located at Texas State University in San Marcos.

The report provides a host of new details about the May 24 shooting, including several missed opportunities to engage or stop the gunman before he entered the school.

The lack of response to the officer’s request to shoot the suspect outside the school was the most significant new detail that the report revealed.

“A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that use of deadly force was warranted,” according to the report. The report referred to the Texas Penal Code, which states an individual is justified in using deadly force when the individual reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the commission of murder.

The report said one of the first responding officers — a Uvalde school district police officer — drove through the school’s parking lot “at a high rate of speed” and didn’t spot the gunman, who was still in the parking lot. The report said the officer might have seen the suspect if he had driven more slowly or parked his car at the edge of the school property and approached on foot.

The report also found flaws in how the school maintains security of the building. The report noted that propping doors open is a common practice in the school, a practice that “can create a situation that results in danger to students.” The exterior door the gunman used to enter the school had been propped open by a teacher, who then closed it before the gunman entered — but it didn’t lock properly.

The teacher did not check to see if the door was locked, the report said. The teacher also did not appear to have the proper equipment to lock the door even if she had checked. The report also notes that even if the door had locked properly, the suspect still could have gained access to the building by shooting out the glass in the door.

An audio analysis outlined in the report shows 100 rounds were fired in the first three minutes after the gunman entered rooms 111 and 112 — from 11:33 a.m. to 11:36 a.m.

The report highlighted other issues with the law enforcement response before the gunman — an 18-year-old Uvalde man — entered rooms 111 and 112 for the last time.

The gunman was seen by security cameras entering room 111, then leaving the room, then re-entering the room before officers arrived. The report determined that the lock on room 111 “was never engaged” because the lock required a key to be inserted from the hallway side of the door.

Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo previously told The Texas Tribune that he had checked the door on room 111, but it was locked.

The officers were also in multiple teams at both ends of the south hallway of the school “resulting in a high likelihood of officers at either end of the hallway shooting officers at the other end” if the suspect had emerged from the classroom again, according to the report.

The report said that after the gunman entered the building, the officers did not properly engage the shooter and lost momentum.

“Ideally, the officers would have placed accurate return fire on the attacker when the attacker began shooting at them,” the report said. “Maintaining position or even pushing forward to a better spot to deliver accurate return fire would have undoubtedly been dangerous, and there would have been a high probability that some of the officers would have been shot or even killed. However, the officers also would likely have been able to stop the attacker and then focus on getting immediate medical care to the wounded.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Eric Neugeboren is the summer 2022 D.C. reporting fellow and a junior at the University of Maryland studying journalism, government and politics.