Just under a month after the shooting that left 21 people dead in Uvalde, Col. Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified in front of the Texas Senate on June 21. This was the first public hearing for the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans, following a June 1 order by Gov. Greg Abbott to form two special legislative committees to investigate the deadly school shooting. The hearing was streamed on the Texas Senate website.
McCraw said “as many as 11 officers” entered the school building within minutes after the gunman entered. Yet, law enforcement waited over an hour to neutralize the shooter.
According to a timeline shared by DPS, the first three Uvalde police officers entered Robb Elementary at 11:35 a.m. One hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds later, law enforcement at 12:50 p.m. breached classroom 111, where the gunman was located, and shot the suspect.
Seven officers from various agencies, including Uvalde PD and the federal Border Patrol Tactical Unit, attempted to breach the classroom at 12:50 p.m., McCraw said during the hearing.
There is “compelling evidence,” McCraw said, that the law enforcement response was an “abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”
McCraw said that teachers, not law enforcement, should be praised for their actions to protect and rescue students.
The suspect initially crashed his grandmother’s vehicle in a ditch next to Robb Elementary School, McCraw said. A teacher who observed the crash called 911 and reported a man with a gun outside the school.
Even before the gunman had entered the building, McCraw said, “[teachers and administrators] went ahead and implemented their active shooter protocol.”
Nineteen minutes after the gunman entered, police brought the first ballistic shield into the school. At that point, at least 21 law enforcement officers and four first responders were inside the building. Still, McCraw said law enforcement did not enter the classroom and “waited for a key that was never needed.”
“The on-scene commander ... decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said, referring to Pete Arredondo, the police chief for Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
Arredondo told reporters he did not consider himself the person in charge of the law enforcement response. But McCraw testified that the ranking officer of the local agency is the on-scene commander, regardless of who else is present. The UCISD Police Department had jurisdiction over the school, placing Arredondo in charge.
Law enforcement assumed the classroom was locked, McCraw said. But according to reporting by the Texas Tribune and other news outlets, security footage from inside the school did not show police officers attempting to open the doors to rooms 111 or 112. Students and teachers were shot and killed in both classrooms, which were connected by an interior door.
And evidence showed that classroom doors at Robb Elementary could only be locked from the outside. Previous reports showed that the gunman had barricaded himself in the classroom, but McCraw testified that there was no way for a teacher or the gunman to lock the room from the inside.
DPS extracted an interior door from the west wing of the elementary school, where the shooting occurred. The door, which was used in McCraw’s testimony, was the same style as that of room 111.
McCraw demonstrated how to lock the door from the outside in front of the senators. He showed legislators that the door could be opened from the inside, but could not be locked from inside the classroom.
“It cannot be locked from the inside. It cannot be,” he said.
“This is ridiculous and it’s inexcusable, if you’re looking at it from a security standpoint,” McCraw emphasized.
McCraw said DPS found that during the 74-minute period before the shooter was killed, law enforcement did not fire any shots. The gunman fired 11 rounds at 11:37 a.m., which injured officers as they approached the classroom doors, according to the DPS timeline. But the officers did not return fire.
The only shots fired by officers, McCraw testified, were when they entered room 111 at 12:50 p.m.
That 74-minute period, McCraw said, “[is] not just a lifetime, it’s many lifetimes” lost.
McCraw told senators that body camera footage from law enforcement would be released after DPS concludes its investigation of the shooting. Christina Busbee, the 38th Judicial District Attorney, must approve the release. The 38th district includes Real and Uvalde counties.
Abbott released a statement on June 21 asserting that the governor’s office has released all the information it has regarding the shooting in Uvalde. According to the statement, the governor’s office will make all information surrounding the shooting, including any ongoing investigations, public as soon as possible.