A police officer who saw the suspected Robb Elementary School gunman approach the school while carrying a rifle asked his supervisor for permission to fire instead of engaging immediately — and ended up missing the opportunity to take the killer down.
According to a report released Wednesday by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University, an officer with the Uvalde Police Department watched as Salvador Ramos, 18, approached the building, gun in hand.
“Prior to the suspect’s entry into the building at 11:33:00, according to statements, a Uvalde Police Officer on scene at the crash site observed the suspect carrying a rifle outside the west hall entry,” the report said. “The officer, armed with a rifle, asked his supervisor for permission to shoot the suspect. However, the supervisor either did not hear or responded too late. The officer turned to get confirmation from his supervisor and when he turned back to address the suspect, he had entered the west hallway unabated.”
Before approaching the school, Ramos had crashed his car in a nearby dry canal. Two people from nearby businesses approached the crash site, but Ramos “engaged them both with a rifle,” the report said.
Moments later, Ramos walked away from the crash and toward the school, ultimately entering the building through the west hallway. He would ultimately fire what is estimated to be more than 100 rounds at students and teachers located in two classrooms, killing 19 children and two teachers.
“A Reasonable Officer” Would Have Concluded that “Deadly Force Was Warranted.”
The ALERRT report evaluated — and criticized — law enforcement’s response to the devastating mass shooting. Running up and down the timeline, investigators with ALERRT suggested that the massacre could have been prevented in the first place.
“The officer was justified in using deadly force to stop the attacker,” the report states, citing a section of the Texas Penal Code that allows for deadly force in defense of other people.
“[The code] 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 (amongst other crimes),” the report explains. “In this instance, the UPD officer would have heard gunshots and/or reports of gunshots and observed an individual approaching the school building armed with a rifle. A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that use of deadly force was warranted.”
The report said the UPD officer was approximately 148 yards from the west hall exterior door that Ramos entered — “well within the effective range of an AR-15 platform.”
The report noted that the attack was a fraught situation, and the officer had said he was concerned that if he shot at Ramos and missed, he could accidentally shoot into the school and injure students.
“Ultimately, the decision to use deadly force always lies with the officer who will use the force,” the report said. “If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and of his backdrop if he missed, he should not have fired.”
Without any interference from officers, Ramos entered the building at 11:33 a.m., and moments later had and opened fire in the two classrooms. It was not until 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour later — that that law enforcement entered classroom 111 and killed him.
“The Attacker Was Able to Immediately Access the Building.”
The report highlighted two other key moments from before the shooting: an unlocked door leading to the classroom building and a responding officer who was driving at a high rate of speed through the parking lot.
According to the report, a teacher had briefly “propped open the exterior door” with a rock at around 11:27 a.m., but kicked the rock away and closed the door before Ramos approached. According to the ALERRT report, she did not check to see if it was locked.
“Perhaps this was because the door is usually locked,” the report said. “However, on this day the door was not locked, and because it was not locked, the attacker was able to immediately access the building.”
Even if the teacher had checked to see if the door was locked, the report said that she “did not have the proper key or tool to engage the locking mechanism on the door.” Moreover, the report said, the door, which featured a “large glass inlay,” was not built to withstand gunfire, suggesting that Ramos would have been able to access the building even if the door was locked.
“This suggests that the suspect would have been able to gain access to the building even if the door was locked,” the report said.
(The report noted that the teacher’s propping open of the door “did not affect what happened in this situation,” despite the fact that a Texas public safety official had initially said that that was how Ramos had gained access to the building,)
An officer who was one of the first to respond to the school, meanwhile, also missed an opportunity to perhaps slow Ramos’ approach.
“One of the first responding officers (UCISD PD) drove through the parking lot on the west side of the building at a high rate of speed,” the report said. “The suspect was in the parking lot at this time, but the officer did not see him.”
The officer’s speed, the report said, ended up having deadly consequences.
“If the officer had driven more slowly or had parked his car at the edge of the school property and approached on foot, he might have seen the suspect and been able to engage him before the suspect entered the building,” the report stated.
The ALERRT report credited police with rushing to the scene and heading toward the sound of gunfire, but said that police lost their momentum early on when Ramos fired at them. The report also suggested ways that officers could have confronted Ramos sooner by engaging him through exterior windows or taking angular positions on door windows.
The report also acknowledged the danger to officers, but emphasized that innocent lives were already in danger.
“[The priority of life scale dictates that the officers assume risk to save innocent lives,” the report said. “It is also worth noting, the officers had weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been rated to stop rifle rounds), training, and backup. The victims in the classrooms had none of these things.”
The report was conducted on behalf of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
You can read the full report below.
[Image via Brandon Bell/Getty Images]
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