Law enforcement officers who were in the hallway of a Uvalde elementary school did not breach the classroom that the shooter was in because they thought the children inside were already dead, an official said, even though students were still calling 911 from the classroom.
"The on-scene commander at the time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject ... [and] there were no more children at risk," Steven McCraw, the Texas Department of Public Safety director, told reporters Friday.
"Obviously, based upon the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was in fact still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject."
"When you go back to the timeline, there was a barrage — hundreds of rounds were pumped in in 4 minutes into those two classrooms; any firing afterwards was sporadic, and it was at the door," McCraw said. "So the belief was that there may not be anybody living anymore and the subject is now trying to keep law enforcement at bay or entice them to come in."
The gunman first entered the school at 11:33 a.m. and began shooting inside one of two adjoining classrooms, McCraw said. Uvalde police officers followed two minutes later, and more officers entered the school as they exchanged gunfire with the shooter.
There were 19 officers in the school hallway by 12:03 p.m., McCraw said. The on-site commander decided that "there was time" to get the keys and wait for a tactical team equipped to breach the door and engage the shooter, he added.
Law enforcement finally entered the classrooms at 12:50 p.m. after getting keys from the janitor, and then killed the shooter.
"With the benefit of hindsight ... of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision," McCraw said.
Meanwhile, according to law enforcement's account, children inside the adjoining classrooms were making frantic calls to 911 begging the police to save them.
The first call came in at 12:03 p.m., McCraw said, the same time 19 officers had converged in the hallway. The girl whispered that she was in Room 112. She called back at 12:10 p.m., saying multiple people in the room were dead, and then again at 12:13 p.m. and 12:16 p.m. to say that 8 to 9 students were still alive.
The caller contacted 911 again at 12:36 p.m. saying the gunman shot the door. At 12:43 and 12:47 p.m., she told 911 to "please send the police now," McCraw said.
Another person who said she was in the adjoining classroom, Room 111, called 911 at 12:19 p.m. and then hung up when another student told her to.
It's unclear why police assumed that the children inside the classrooms were already dead when they were still calling 911.
Law enforcement's account of the police response has changed over the days, angering the close-knit Uvalde community.
Parents outside the school that day told the Wall Street Journal that police were "doing nothing" during the shooting and had tried to stop them from entering the school themselves to help their kids.
The New York Times also reported that federal agents who traveled from the US–Mexico border to Uvalde were held back from going into the school by local police when they arrived.
The latest version of events provided by law enforcement raised even more questions about how the police handled the shooting — a situation they had been trained for — and if their delay led to more children being killed.
"I don't have anything to say to the parents other than what had happened," McCraw said. "If I thought it would help, I'd apologize."