Since the May 24th mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, wherein 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and their two teachers, many have justifiably questioned law enforcement’s response. Yesterday, appalling new footage published by the Austin American Statesman confirmed precisely why law enforcement and lawmakers—namely, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who praised police for their “amazing courage”—have worked diligently to present an entirely inaccurate narrative surrounding the shooting. In short, because police dawdled, checked their phones, and used hand sanitizer instead of doing anything to stop children from being murdered en masse.
It’s now more important than ever to recall that in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Uvalde police departments abruptly stopped cooperating with state investigators; videos showing officers taking little action apart from restraining concerned parents from entering the building went viral; and emerging reports concluded that police not only waited for permission to apprehend Ramos, even as he fired numerous rounds into classrooms, but attempted to suppress bodycam footage, lied about requiring a key to enter the classroom in which the shooter barricaded himself with children, and harassed parents for publicly questioning their response—or lack thereof.
The 77-minute clip obtained by the Statesman shows officers racing into Robb Elementary after Ramos crashed his truck near the school and freely entered the building. However, instead of immediately confronting the shooter, several officers—many of whom were heavily armed and wearing protective gear—lingered in a hallway, with one even stealing a squirt from a nearby wall-mounted hand sanitizer and another checking his phone, whose background appeared to be an American flag Punisher skull. Update: One day after the footage was published, Joe Moody, a state representative and attorney, tweeted that the latter officer is Ruben Ruiz, the husband of Eva Mireles, one of the teachers who was killed in the shooting. Mireles apparently contacted her husband from the scene after she’d been shot and he was later removed from the scene.
As minutes passed and several rounds were fired by Ramos, there was ample opportunity to take action; instead, more than five officers can be seen talking, making calls, and simply standing idle. School security cameras also show police retreating down a hallway when Ramos fired in their direction.
Steve McCraw, the Texas Department of Public Safety Director, told press that school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo treated the situation as a barricaded subject, as opposed to an active shooter situation. In the latter, police are required to take any possible measure to stop a gunman, including risking their own lives.
Nearly one hour passes and more gunfire can be heard in the footage, as officers wait for an ultimately unnecessary key to the classroom in which Ramos barricaded himself. A recent investigation found that the door was not locked, nor had it been breached by police at all. It’s not until 77 minutes into the recording that police finally enter the classroom and kill Ramos.
The newspaper, which published two versions of the footage—a four-minute video that shows the most notable moments, in addition to the 77-minute video—stands by its decision to release the footage, despite victims’ loved ones implying it had been previously leaked:
“Our goal is to continue to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary, which the families and friends of the Uvalde victims have long been asking for,” wrote Editor Manny Garcia in a statement.
In the wake of the video’s release, family members—who say they had not seen the footage and were never explicitly forewarned of the leak—are outraged. Javier Cazares, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, told reporters that the families were supposed to have been shown the footage on Sunday.
“We didn’t want any audio and these SOBs did it. It got leaked. It got shown all over the world, and we are pissed. These families didn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. That’s a slap to our babies’ faces, and we’re tired of this,” Cazares said.
Similarly, Angel Garza, the father of another victim, Amerie Jo Garza, vented: “I don’t’ care if you’re a DA, you’re a spokesperson, you’re a councilman, you’re a senator—who do you think you are to release footage like that of our children who can’t even speak for themselves—but you want to go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world. What makes you think that’s OK?”
Other loved ones have taken to social media to express their shock. In a Facebook post, Gloria Cazares asked friends and family not to share the video, writing that the published footage was, “the opposite of what the families wanted.” John Martinez, the nephew of Irma Garcia, a teacher killed in the shooting, and her husband, Joe, who passed away of a heart attack two days later, tweeted that he was unable to watch the video in its entirety.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and McGraw have since expressed their own disappointment in the release of the footage prior to it being shown to victims’ loved ones.
Though Abbott has yet to address the video and asserted he’d been “misled” regarding the police response, it’s impossible not to remember that in the first news conference following the shooting, he told reporters that it “could have been worse.” Frankly, it’s quite clear that no, it doesn’t get more grim than this.