Exclusive video from inside Uvalde school shows officers’ delayed response to mass shooting

Editor’s Note: Our goal is to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary. The video footage, audio and events described in this story are disturbing. Read more about our decision to publish here. This exclusive story and video are being made available free of charge as a public service. If you value strong journalism from USA TODAY, support us by subscribing.

The gunman walks into Robb Elementary School unimpeded, moments after spraying bullets from his semi-automatic rifle outside the school and after desperate calls to 911 from inside and outside the school.

He slows down to peek around a corner in a hallway and flips back his hair before proceeding toward classrooms 111 and 112.

Seconds later, a boy with neatly combed hair and glasses exits a bathroom to head back to his class. As he turns the corner, he notices the gunman standing by the classroom door and unloading a barrage.

The boy turns and runs back into the bathroom.

The gunman enters one of the classrooms. Children scream. The gunfire continues, stops, then starts again. Stops, then starts again. And again. And again.

It is almost three minutes before three police officers arrive in the hallway and rush toward the classrooms, crouching down. Then, a burst of gunfire. One officer grabs the back of his head. They quickly retreat to the end of the hallway, below a school surveillance camera.

A 77-minute video recording captured from this vantage point, along with body camera footage from one of the responding officers, shows in excruciating detail what happened when dozens of local, state and federal officers entered the school, heavily armed, clad in body armor, helmets and some with protective shields.

The video was obtained exclusively by The Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, and TV station KVUE. USA TODAY published an edited version of the video to show how the law enforcement response unfolded.

WARNING: Video contains disturbing content. Viewer discretion advised.

More: Why the USA TODAY Network chose to publish video from inside Robb Elementary

In the video, officers walk back and forth in the hallway, some leaving the camera frame, then reappearing, others training their weapons toward the classroom, talking, making cellphone calls, sending texts or looking at floor plans. None enters or attempts to enter the classrooms.

Even after hearing at least four shots from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived, they waited.

They asked for keys to one of the classrooms. (It was unlocked, investigators said later.) They brought tear gas and gas masks. They carried a sledgehammer. And still, they waited.

MORE ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION: Uvalde video offers clearest view of police response — but will it be released?

Officers rushed into the classroom and killed the gunman an hour and 14 minutes after police arrived on the scene. Nineteen fourth graders and their two teachers died in the massacre May 24, days before the end of the school year.

The video tells in real time the brutal story of how heavily armed officers failed to immediately launch a cohesive and aggressive response to stop the shooter and save more children if possible. It reinforces the trauma of those parents, friends and bystanders who were outside the school and pleaded with police to do something, and for those survivors who quietly called 911 from inside the classroom to beg for help.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said the person he identified as the incident commander, school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo, treated the situation as a barricaded subject, which calls for a slower, methodical response, not an active-shooter situation, when police are charged with doing anything possible to stop a gunman, including putting their own lives on the line. That was a mistake, McCraw said. Officers should have confronted the gunman as soon as they arrived, carrying enough firepower to breach the classroom and stop the shooting, McCraw said.

McCraw singled out Arredondo for blame in restraining officers from going in earlier. The video shows multiple responding agencies on the scene, including officers from the Uvalde Police Department, the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The video file obtained by the Statesman, part of the investigative file, includes security footage from a nearby funeral home showing the gunman arrive at the school by wrecking a pickup into a ditch, as well as audio of 911 calls and officers speaking in the hallway.

REPORT RELEASED: Officer aimed rifle at gunman outside school but didn’t fire


More gunshots and more delays

At 12:21 p.m., 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene, four shots are heard, and at least a dozen officers move toward the classroom.

An officer says, “They’re making entry.”

Yet they do not.

At 12:30, an officer wearing a helmet and ballistic vest squirts hand sanitizer from a wall-mounted dispenser and rubs his hands together. Armed officers walk back and forth and discuss the classroom doors and windows. The hunt for the keys continues. One officer brings a sledgehammer. The audio from the surveillance camera at times is garbled, but it is loud in the crowded hallway.

At 12:41, a man wearing blue rubber gloves and a black shirt, khaki pants and a black baseball cap, with a stethoscope around his neck, arrives and speaks to officers. Other paramedics arrive with supplies. Two officers in camouflage fist-bump each other.

At 12:50, a cadre of officers crouches outside the classroom. After a burst of gunfire, the video ends. Authorities said a Border Patrol officer killed the gunman. Investigators await the results of an analysis from an Austin-based medical expert on how many victims died after police arrived.

ONE MONTH LATER: In Uvalde, moments of silence, yet so much left to say

Officials debate video release

The video has been the subject of an intense political debate: Gov. Greg Abbott and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin urged its public release, and Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee opposed releasing it.

State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican and the chairman of the House committee investigating the shooting, said Tuesday that the committee plans to show the hallway video to members of the Uvalde community Sunday, as well as discuss the panel’s preliminary report. He plans to release both to the public.

The video that the House committee will make available will not include footage of the gunman walking into the school and the view from the hallway of the gunman initially firing his way into the classrooms. The video the Statesman obtained includes that footage.

Those seeking its release said it would bring clarity to the families of victims and others in Uvalde traumatized by the shooting, especially after state leaders, including Abbott, presented shifting accounts of the police response. Abbott said he was misled but did not say by whom.

Local, state and federal officials have denied requests to release documents that could shed light on the police response, including 911 call transcripts, body camera footage, communications between law enforcement officers and arrest records from that day. They have appealed to the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who will make final decisions on the records disputes.

Anger boiled over Sunday night at a march and rally in Uvalde for greater gun restrictions, where some residents said they no longer trust the local authorities and demanded answers.

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This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Uvalde shooting surveillance video shows delayed police response

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