Texas gunman entered school without confrontation, say officials

Police criticised after it emerges hour passed before they shot man who killed 21

The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a south Texas elementary school was able to enter without any confrontation, authorities said on Thursday, contradicting earlier reports that a police officer engaged him outside the building.

Salvador Ramos (18) crashed his pickup truck outside the school at 11.28am local time on Tuesday, fired several shots at two bystanders across the street and walked into an unlocked door of the school at 11.40am, Victor Escalon, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a news conference.

Mr Escalon said officers arrived and entered the school four minutes later but took cover after Ramos fired multiple rounds at them. He barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom, where he shot his victims, mostly 9- and 10-year-olds, in the deadliest US school shooting in nearly a decade.

An hour elapsed before a US Border Patrol tactical team breached the classroom and killed Ramos, Mr Escalon confirmed, a timeline that has prompted questions about whether law enforcement could have intervened sooner.

The newly detailed account came hours after videos emerged showing desperate parents outside Robb Elementary School during the attack, imploring officers maintaining a perimeter to storm the building, with some fathers having to be restrained.

“That’s a tough question,” Mr Escalon said when asked if officers should have gone in sooner, adding that authorities would offer more information as the investigation proceeds.

In one video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking through yellow police tape and yelling at officers to go into the building.

“It’s already been an hour, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Mr Ledezma said in the video. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult. One woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s shooting in there.”

“We got guys going in to get kids,” one officer is heard telling the crowd. “They’re working.”

The massacre has reignited a national debate over the country’s gun laws. US president Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats have vowed to push for new restrictions, despite resistance from Republicans. Mr Biden will travel to Uvalde on Sunday to honour the victims. Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden will go to “grieve with the community”, according to a White House statement on Thursday.

There was no armed police officer stationed at the school. Mr Escalon told reporters that, based on preliminary information, the majority of shots were fired at the outset of the attack.

He described a chaotic scene after the initial exchange of gunfire, with officers calling for back-up and evacuating students and staff.

Investigators are still working to determine a motive, he said. Ramos, a high-school dropout, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness. Governor Greg Abbott said on Wednesday that Ramos had written an online message to someone minutes beforehand saying he was about to “shoot up an elementary school.”

Ramos started his rampage at home, where he shot his grandmother in the face before fleeing in a pick-up truck. His grandmother, who is hospitalised in critical condition, called police.

At least 17 people were also injured, including children.

Victims’ loved ones took to social media to express anguish over the loss of children who never came home from school.

“We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio posted on Facebook in a remembrance of her daughter, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, a fourth-grade student. “We had no idea this was goodbye.” – Reuters/Bloomberg