More than an hour passed between when a shooter entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday and when law enforcement finally entered, confronted, and killed the 18-year-old suspect.
But when members of law enforcement were pointedly asked during a press conference Thursday why it took more than 60 agonizing minutes — during which the shooter killed 19 children and 2 adults — before armed officers went in to stop the gunfire, officials turned and walked away.
"What were you doing between 11:44 and 12:44?" one reporter asked Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
"Did you follow best practices?" the reporter asked. "Why don't you clear all of this up now?"
"I have taken all your questions into consideration," Escalon told reporters. "We will circle back and answer all of your questions."
Escalon and other law enforcement officials standing beside him then ended the press conference suddenly and walked away.
The tense moment comes as questions have mounted about how law enforcement responded to one of the deadliest school shootings ever. Video has surfaced of parents arriving at the school on Tuesday just moments after the shooting, begging officers to rush in, and angrily asking why so many armed officers were waiting outside the campus. Some parents frantically tried to get past police lines to save their children.
Outside Robb Elementary on Thursday, law enforcement officials held a press conference to supposedly clear up misinformation and provide answers to a community reeling from the massacre. But as questions arose on police tactics, officials failed to provide clarity.
"My goal today is on this conference to give you a snapshot where we're at today," Escalon said as he began his remarks. "We want to make sure we have that information."
According to Escalon, the shooter is believed to have shot his grandmother in the face before fleeing in a pickup truck Tuesday morning. The grandmother survived and was able to call 911.
Then at around 11:28 a.m., the shooter crashed at Robb Elementary. He got out of the truck through the passenger's side door and was seen carrying a long gun and a bag, which was later determined to be filled with ammunition.
He shot toward two witnesses across the street at a funeral home before walking into one of the buildings, making entry to the school at about 11:40 a.m., Escalon said.
Despite previous accounts provided by law enforcement, Escalon said the shooter was not confronted by a police officer on the campus.
About four minutes later, local police including the Uvalde Police Department arrived on the scene.
"They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they get back, take cover, and during that time, they approach where the suspect is at," he said.
During that time, the shooter made his way through the hallways of one of the buildings and walked into a classroom that, according to Escalon, had its doors open.
"The initial officers, they received gunfire," Escalon said. "They received gunfire. They don't make entry initially because of the gunfire they receive, but we have officers calling for additional resources — everybody in that area."
The requested resources included negotiators, body armor, and a tactical team to the school. Escalon said officers also proceeded to try to evacuate students and teachers. But despite the large law enforcement presence surging on the school, officers then waited more than an hour for a tactical team from Border Patrol to arrive before confronting the shooter.
While the tactical team arrived, desperate parents began to rush to the school looking for their children, only to be met by officers who were cordoning off the area, blocking parents' way and setting up police tape.
In videos, parents can be seen urging police to go into the school, at times pleading and at others angrily demanding why the campus was being surrounded by armed police while children remained with the shooter.
"If they got a shot, shoot him or something, fuck!" one parent says in a video livestreamed on Facebook and reviewed by BuzzFeed News. "Get in, what the fuck is the fucking deal!"
"Look, they're all just fucking parked outside," another parent says in the video. "They need to go in there. The cops ain't doing shit but being outside."
As parents moved toward the school, officers tried to keep them out. In the video, an armed officer is seen shoving one of the parents back.
"Get across the street!" the officer yells.
"Y'all going to get violent with us, go get violent with them!" one parent responds.
The videos also show a desperate, at times chaotic scene. A slew of officers are seen holding a perimeter around the campus and holding panicked parents at bay, at times physically pushing them back. Staff members are seen sporadically leading groups of kids running out of the school. At one point, officials tried to load children into school buses to lead them away from the active area, but the bus is left unattended, and one boy climbs out of a half-opened window and into their arms.
Officials will be conducting a review of the incident, including looking at whether officers could have arrived sooner to the school. Rep. Joaquin Castro called for that review to be handled by the FBI to clear up the "conflicting accounts" of local authorities.
"You got to understand, it's a small town," Escalon told reporters on Thursday.
But Escalon declined to answer questions as to whether law enforcement followed best practices for active shooter situations, which include attempting to confront the gunman immediately in order to reduce the number of injured and casualties.
"Law enforcement’s purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible," a Department of Homeland Security pamphlet reads, as one example. "Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard."
Law enforcement agencies across the country have developed policies and procedures in active-shooter scenarios which, in most instances, allow for even lone officers to confront perpetrators if they see an opportunity. Other agencies require a team to be assembled before advancing, but most of them consist of small teams of four to five officers, according to a report from the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum.
Those teams are often directly instructed not to attend to any injured victims, but to seek out and neutralize the shooter as soon as possible.
Since the Columbine school shooting of 1999, many police departments have scrapped the policy of waiting for SWAT officers before making entry in active shooter situations, since doing so could increase the number of victims and critically delay medical care that can be provided to possible survivors.
Appearing on CNN on Thursday after the press conference, Lt. Chris Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety defended law enforcement's decision to wait for tactical teams who finally confronted the shooter using a ballistic shield.
Officers maintained cover because they were shot at, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and were able to "contain" the shooter in one classroom.
The classroom was filled with most of the 21 victims, but Olivarez maintained that had the officers confronted the shooter earlier, they risked getting shot themselves and him moving to another part of the school.
"There's a good chance the gunman would have made it to other classrooms and commit more killings," Olivarez said. "One thing the American people need to understand is officers were making entry into this building, they're receiving gunshots. At that point if they proceeded any further not knowing where the gunman was, they could have been shot. They could have been killed."
Video on social media from Tuesday shows parents anxiously waiting outside the school during the same hour that police waited for a tactical team to arrive, angrily asking why police were not rushing in, with some even trying to get into the school.
Escalon said he heard "rumors" of parents confronting police outside the school, but said he could not confirm reports, despite numerous videos online depicting the confrontations.
According to the Wall Street Journal, one parent was put in handcuffs after urging police to go in.
In one video reviewed by BuzzFeed News, parents urge police to go in while an officer pushes them back. When one parent asks why police aren't trying to save their kids, the officer responds: "Because I'm having to deal with you!"