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Uvalde: Constantly Changing Details Suggests Official Negligence

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LAw enforcement stands next to a memorial outside Robb Elementary | Image by The Mary Sue

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Following the mass shooting in Uvalde, details surrounding the case involving the deaths of 19 children and two teachers continue to evolve as the investigation proceeds. 

A month after the tragedy at Robb Elementary School, conflicting information raises many questions about the timeline of events on that tragic day.

Investigators have listened to radio traffic and phone and dispatch recordings; they have watched body camera footage and videos from a nearby funeral home and school security. As newly discovered details have emerged, some drastically differ from what was reported in the few days following the massacre. 

Exterior Door: Shooter Entry

Media reports immediately after the shooting said that a teacher had propped open an exterior door earlier in the day, which allowed the killer to enter the school.

Upon investigation, it was determined that the teacher propped the door open but later closed it. However, when the teacher closed the door, she thought it would lock automatically, but it did not because doors have to be locked from the outside. 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was able to walk into the building unimpeded.

How Long Did They Wait?

Initial reports by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw said the duration between Ramos firing at the school security officer outside of the building and when the gunman was fatally shot was 40 minutes to an hour. Later, reports revealed that the duration was 90 minutes.

New evidence shows that officers waited more than 70 minutes to confront the shooter while allegedly waiting for backup. Meanwhile, trapped children called 911 from the classroom for help.

Officers waited so long to enter the classrooms, according to District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, because they were “outgunned” by the shooter and lacked the necessary tools to unlock the door and disable him.

However, video images also revealed that police were fully prepared with firearms and a ballistic shield for over an hour before they killed Ramos. Investigators saw it as a significant discovery that law enforcement had more than enough weapons and protection to storm the classroom much earlier than they claimed.

Keys For An Unlocked Door

In the first few days after the shooting, The Dallas Express shared preliminary reports from authorities stating that Salvador entered two adjoining classrooms and then shot the students and teachers in each room. He then barricaded himself inside, allegedly preventing responding officers from entering. 

Later, video evidence suggested that Arredondo spent time looking for the key to the classroom. “Each time I tried a key, I was just praying,” said Arredondo to the Texas Tribune.

But in a committee hearing on June 20, McCraw testified that officers never checked the door. The campus doors are typically not locked and it turns out they cannot lock from the inside.

Who’s In Charge?

Additionally, claims differ regarding which law enforcement agency was responsible for taking charge of the incident. The confusion reportedly contributed to the delay in response.

McCraw blamed Arredondo, stating that the police chief was in command, as it is the “ranking official of the agency that has jurisdiction.”

But Arredondo told the Texas Tribune that he did not know he was in charge, and he “didn’t issue any orders.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin criticized McCraw in turn, according tThe Dallas Express. He argued that the DPS director was trying to discredit the actions of the Texas Rangers and state troopers who responded to the tragedy while shifting the blame off of the DPS officers present.

“Colonel McCraw has continued to—whether you want to call it … lie, leak, mislead, or mistake information in order to — distance his own troopers and Rangers from the response,” said McLaughlin. “Every briefing, he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers that were on scene that day.”

McLaughlin said the number of McCraw’s officers and state troopers “in the school hallway at points during the slaughter surpassed that of any other law enforcement agency.”

Certainly, as investigations develop, new information is likely to shed light on what was previously reported. However, one thing is clear: Revelations about details of the elementary school shooting show that law enforcement has no shortage of questions to answer.

Gun Money

Another concern was how Ramos could obtain and afford the purchase of the guns he used in the shooting. Ramos worked at a Wendy’s, and he allegedly was able to save up the money to spend an estimated $4,000 on his weapons, ammunition, and tactical-style vest, according to The U.S. Sun.

The gunman began working at Wendy’s last year after dropping out of school during his senior year at Uvalde High School. He worked from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week.

One of his coworkers, Grace Cruz, said something was “off” about Ramos. “He had mental problems, emotional problems, personal problems, every type of problem,” she said. Her description coincides with statements from relatives and others that Ramos had been bullied throughout his school years, primarily for having a stutter and “being poor.” 

Cruz also stated that Ramos disclosed his intentions for the money he earned at the fast-food restaurant. 

“He told us he was saving up money for guns and ammo. We would ask him, ‘Why would you spend your money on that? Spend it on a car or something useful,'” said Cruz. According to her, Ramos quit shortly after getting enough money. 

Though it is not certain how much Ramos’ hourly wage was, assuming it was $10 an hour, he would have made approximately $428 per two-week, 50-hour paycheck after taxes. At that rate, it would have taken nine and a half entire paychecks — approximately 19 weeks — to earn $4,000.

This is assuming he saved his full pay to buy the weapons and gear he used to carry out the shooting at Uvalde. Were he to save half of each paycheck, it would have taken him about 37 weeks, over nine whole months, to save $4,000.

Legal Purchase

Initial media reports postulated that Ramos may have been in possession of the weapons illegally and that he purchased them before turning 18 years old. 

Ramos had no prior convictions and no known mental health conditions. Therefore, he was able to legally buy two Armalite rifles, magazines, and ammunition, authorities said — the week before the shooting.

As more information unfolds, investigations continue, and families of the victims and survivors have begun filing lawsuits due to the alleged negligence that occurred the day of the shooting. Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez is also suing the Texas DPS for records to be released pertaining to the incident.

Body camera footage and other information made available through open records requests may help clarify why DPS troopers did not react more quickly, according to Gutierrez.       

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