UVALDE, Texas — A Texas law enforcement official said the 18-year-old gunman who slaughtered 21 people at an elementary school entered the building “unobstructed” through a door that was apparently unlocked.
Victor Escalon, a regional director at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Thursday that Salvador Ramos did not initially encounter any law enforcement officers when he entered Robb Elementary School on Tuesday and opened fire, killing 19 children and two teachers.
"It's hard. It's traumatic. We are all hurting inside," said Escalon.
Escalon also outlined the initial timeline of how the shooting unfolded, as authorities have faced mounting questions and criticism over how much time elapsed before they entered the building.
Escalon said Ramos entered the school around 11:40 a.m. and that police arrived at the school about four minutes later.
Ramos was killed about an hour later, around 12:40 p.m., Escalon said.
Escalon also detailed the events and timing that led up to the shooting.
Escalon said Ramos started the incident at his grandmother's house, where he shot her in the face. He then allegedly stole her truck and crashed it.
At around 11:28 a.m., Escalon said, Ramos jumped out of the passenger side of the truck after the crash, and witnesses spotted him with a rifle and a bag of ammunition.
Ramos fired at the witnesses, who were near a funeral home, Escalon said.
Around this same time, at 11:30 a.m., police received their initial call about a crash and a shooting in the area.
After firing at the two people near the funeral home, Ramos continued walking toward the school, climbing a fence into the parking lot. Escalon said Ramos shot at the school multiple times.
At 11:40 a.m., Ramos walked into the west side of Robb Elementary, Escalon said.
Authorities obtained video from inside and outside the school that showed Ramos firing "numerous" rounds in the school, Escalon said.
Escalon said Uvalde police arrived at the school building in about four minutes, along with school district police.
Authorities heard rounds being fire, so they "move back, get cover" and approach the classroom where the suspect was at, Escalon said.
"They don't make entry initially because of the gunfire they were receiving," Escalon said.
Officers called for backup, including tactical equipment, negotiators and any other police who could help.
Police also began evacuating other students and staff in the building.
During this time, officers were "taking gunfire, negotiations and developing a team to make entry to stop him."
About an hour into the incident, Border Patrol tactical teams arrived at the school, made entry and killed the shooter, Escalon said.
Escalon disputed reports that a school district police officer confronted Ramos as he walked into the school; Ramos went into the school without being confronted by anybody, Escalon said.
"Four minutes later, law enforcement are coming in to solve this problem," Escalon said.
Escalon said it appears the school was unlocked when Ramos made entry.
While Ramos was in the school, he was not responding to negotiations, though there wasn't much gunfire during this time, Escalon said.
Most of the gunfire was "in the beginning" of the incident.
When asked if police could have confronted the shooter before an hour passed, Escalon said there were "a lot of possibilities."
"Once we interview all those officers, what they were thinking, what they did, why they did it, the video, the residual interviews," Escalon said, "we'll have a better idea."
When pressed more on how the shooting unfolded, Escalon said authorities don't know everything yet.
"Our job is to report the facts," Escalon said, "and we're not there yet."
WFAA asked former Dallas ISD Chief Craig Miller, who is an expert in school safety, if officers should have attempted to breach the door even if they were taking fire.
”In schools, we are taught to encounter the threat, to not wait for a full team to go ahead and take on that threat,” said Miller.
He says after Columbine officers have been trained to not wait.
“Collectively you can plan using similar weapons that were available to officers to make entry into that location,” said Miller.
State Representative James White, who heads the Public Safety Committee, told WFAA Inside Texas Politics that the blame is with the shooter, not the officers.
“It’s squarely the blame is on the person who went into that school and shot and murdered those children,” Miller.
Still, parents and the community want answers: Could a quicker response have saved more lives?
Authorities have confirmed that they are looking into the response time of Uvalde police officers.