WASHINGTON — Officials in Texas say it was the "wrong decision" to wait 45 minutes before moving in on the man responsible for Tuesday's elementary school shooting.
Col. Steven McCraw, the head of the state's Department of Public Safety, says the commander on the scene opted to wait, believing there were no longer any children in danger.
In fact, McCraw says, some of those children were still calling 911 even as tactical officers were gathered outside the locked classroom door.
He says while it's clear now it was the wrong call, making the right decision isn't always easy in the heat of the moment.
McCraw briefly teared up as he was barraged with media questions about why it took officers so long to breach the door.
He said there was no school district officer in the building when the gunman first arrived and began shooting from outside.
The gunman entered the school via a door that had been propped open before opening fire inside a pair of adjoining classrooms.
"From the benefit of hindsight, where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision — it was the wrong decision, period," McCraw said.
"When there's an active shooter, the rules change."
Nineteen students and two teachers died in the carnage Tuesday, and until now, confusing and often contradictory details have made it difficult to form a clear picture of precisely what happened and what may have gone wrong.
The tragedy came nearly 10 years after 20 children and six adult staff members were gunned down in a similar mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
Predictably, it has touched off a familiar political tinderbox, with Democrats and gun-control advocates clamouring for new restrictions, and defenders of gun rights, as well as their largely Republican allies, closing ranks and pointing to questions about school safety and mental health supports.
About 500 kilometres east of Uvalde, the National Rifle Association was to kick off its annual convention in Houston later Friday, with former president Donald Trump as one of the featured guests.
Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican most often associated with members of Congress who aggressively resist efforts to impose gun control, was also scheduled to attend, along with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was also originally scheduled to speak in person, but has reportedly opted to appear by way of a recorded video message instead.
U.S. President Joe Biden is to travel to Uvalde on Sunday to "offer comfort" to the families of the victims and meet with community leaders, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday as she urged Congress to take meaningful steps toward tougher gun restrictions.
"We need the help of Congress," she said. "We cannot do this alone."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
The Canadian Press