Many Questions, Not so Many Answers
In the wake of more information about the Uvalde Police Department's response to Tuesday's shooting, there is no doubt that an independent and thorough investigation is needed.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, mainstream media and politicians have spent the last 72 hours emphasizing different factors which they claim allowed such a horrific event to happen. Left-wing forces have predictably blamed the incident on the United States’ well-documented history of gun ownership, and Democratic politicians, all the way up to the president, have unfortunately demonized supporters of gun rights as either uncaring towards the victims in Uvalde or corrupted by the “gun lobby”. On the right, there have been voices in favor of bolstering school security apparatuses and examining the widespread effect of a larger cultural decline that the United States has suffered for the past few decades.
Oddly, up until Thursday there failed to be a great amount of public discussion around the response of Uvalde’s police force in the wake of of the shooter’s entrance into Robb Elementary School. That is quite strange given that, in order to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, it is crucial to be knowledgeable of as many details as possible regarding this scenario.
According to public statements made by Uvalde police and government officials up until Thursday night, below was the official timeline as to Tuesday’s events:
11:28 a.m.: After shooting his own grandmother in the head, the killer crashes his truck into a fence close to Robb Elementary School. He then exits the vehicle carrying a rifle and a bag, and fires shots at two witnesses standing by a nearby funeral home, neither of whom he strikes. He then walks towards the school, climbs over the fence and starts indiscriminately shooting while outside the building.
11:40 a.m.: The shooter enters the school building through a door which is believed to have been unlocked and fires multiple rounds.
11:44 a.m.: Police officers arrive on scene and attempt to approach the killer yet are struck by gunfire. They then take cover before unsuccessfully attempting to converge on him again. Around this same time, the shooter locks himself in a classroom and begins to murder everyone inside.
From 11:40 a.m. to about 12:40 p.m.: Officers retreat and call for help, such as tactical teams, hostage negotiators, special equipment, body armor and precision snipers
12:40 p.m.: Border Patrol teams arrive on scene, immediately enter the classroom and kill the shooter.
Even if this timeline is taken at face value and deemed completely accurate and honest, it is still worthy of a heavy amount of scrutiny, particularly pertaining to the hour between 11:40 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. During that time period, dozens of children and at least one teacher were barricaded inside a room with a deranged gunman who was intent on murdering them. Why didn’t more police from Uvalde’s department, or neighboring departments, rush to the scene? Why did the officers on scene who were not already struck by gunfire choose to simply wait for backup instead of trying to break into the room which a slaughter was taking place in? Why did it take an entire hour for border patrol to show up? If border patrol did not show up, how much longer would the law enforcement officers on scene have waited before re-entering Robb Elementary School?
All of these questions, and more, deserve well-explained answers, particularly for the loved ones of any of the 21 victims involved in Tuesday’s shooting. Some of those loved ones have already chosen to speak out publicly with either detestment or confusion as to why law enforcement responded in the manner that they did. Angeli Rose Gomez, a mother of two children at Robb Elementary who drove 40 miles to the school once she heard of the attack, told the press that when she arrived, the police officers on scene were “doing nothing” and “just standing outside the [school’s] fence”.
Gomez also claims that after she and numerous other parents passionately urged the police to enter the building in an attempt to stop the shooting at all costs, a U.S. marshal handcuffed her and told her she was being placed under arrest for intervening in an active investigation. According to Gomez, she was later let out after Uvalde police officers who knew her personally persuaded the marshall to release her from custody. This claim was disputed by a spokesman for U.S. Marshals Service, who stated that no one was placed in handcuffs by any U.S. marshals during the process of “securing the perimeter” of the school building, which means that someone involved in this he-said-she-said is simply lying.
Gomez was not a lone wolf in her reaction to what appeared to be nonchalant behavior by the active-duty Uvalde police officers Tuesday morning and afternoon. Jay Martin, a concerned citizen who lives only four blocks from Robb Elementary School, claimed that law enforcement’s official timeline does not match what he saw both in person and online. He believes the anger in his community and across the country is justified because “no one is coming out and telling us the real truth of what went down”. Bob Estrada, a 77-year-old man whose grandson attends Robb Elementary School, and who lives across the street from it, said that he and his wife walked outside directly after hearing gunshots and were, according to the Wall Street Journal, “confused why the police who arrived didn’t immediately enter”. Estrada believes that the timeline released on Thursday is an attempt by Uvalde police to “cover something up”.
The statements from Gomez, Martin and Estrada are all in logical alignment with a viral video that circulated online yesterday. The video shows the man recording it berating loudly that the young children trapped inside of the building have no way of defending themselves from an armed and dangerous adult. In the nearby vicinity, a woman can also be heard passionately screaming “we’re parents!” From the perspective of the video, it appears that both of these verbal pleas were met by a police officer with his back turned on them. It is unclear whether or not the officer in question was perhaps tasked with keeping his eyes on a particular factor in the environment.
Everything up to this point is certainly justification for an investigation into Uvalde law enforcement’s execution of their response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School - from the hour that took place between the shooter’s entrance into the classroom and his eventual death, to the testimonies from three witnesses on the ground that it appeared that something seemed unusual about how police officers on the scene were acting, to the conflicting stories by Gomez and the U.S. Marshal Service’s spokesman, to the online video which looks at surface level like a police officer ignoring the pleas of nearby citizens for the cops to rush into the school with everything that they have available. All of that is justification for an independent investigation, and possibly subsequent firings if deemed necessary.
However, recently breaking news from the New York Times late this morning incriminates those in charge of law enforcement’s response in Uvalde to an even more damning extent. According to the Times, the border patrol team which eventually ended the shooter’s demented rampage by killing him did not arrive on scene at 12:40 p.m. and then immediately enter the school as was stated in the police force’s official timeline.
The agents from said team and of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrived between 12 p.m. and 12:10 p.m., at least 30 minutes before Uvalde police officials told the public. The agents who spoke to the press, operating under anonymity, claimed that their forces were ready to infiltrate the school building on arrival in an attempt to forcefully stop the shooter, yet were told to stand down by Uvalde law enforcement officials, who have the superior say due to local jurisdiction. They were also confused as to why the local SWAT team had still not arrived at Robb Elementary, and were not aware of an ETA of the team either.
It is undoubtable that law enforcement is not an easy profession to enter and maintain an honorable career in. It is a profession that, unlike most, asks its workers to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to achieve the objective of their occupation, keeping communities safe. And it is indisputable that most people in this country are most-likely simply not cut out to be a police officer, to deal with the physical, mental and emotional challenges that serving as one would predicate upon them.
With all that being said, although surely responding to a tragedy the magnitude of the shooting at Robb Elementary School is an unthinkable request in the minds of most, there must be severe disciplinary action taken in the wake of this continuously growing mount of evidence that the Uvalde police did not effectively respond to what happened Tuesday afternoon. While society should grant that the intentions of all the officers involved were pure, the end-result of their actions taken were anything but. There is no reason not to believe that a quicker breach from law enforcement personnel into the school building could have resulted in an earlier ending to the mass shooter’s deliberate and animalistic carnage. And for that reason, further investigation must be done, a slew of questions must be answered and accountability must be enforced.
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