WALDE, TX (AP) – Javier Casares ran to his daughter’s school when he heard that the shooting left his …
WALDE, Texas (AP) – Javier Casares ran to his daughter’s school when he heard the shooting, leaving his truck running with the door open when he ran into the schoolyard. In his haste he did not bring a gun.
He spent the next 35-45 excruciating minutes scanning children who had run away from Rob Elementary School in search of his 9-year-old “firecracker” Jacqueline. He kept trying to run away, and he and his other parents became increasingly worried that the police would do nothing to stop the militant from hiding in the classroom, killing the children.
“Many of us argued with the police: ‘You all need to go.’ You all have to do your job, ”said Casares, a veteran of the army. “We were ready to go to work and hurry.”
Nineteen children and two teachers were eventually shot dead in about 80 minutes, which the militant spent at a school in Uwalde, Texas, a small, predominantly Latin American community located among vegetable fields halfway between San Antonio and the U.S.-Mexico border. The Ministry of Justice said it would consider the reaction of law enforcement.
This story of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook is based on law enforcement chronicles, records and numerous interviews with Uwalde residents hours and days after the massacre.
Salvador Ramos rose early on May 24, sending ominous messages. Authorities determined that the gunman was 18 years old and immediately bought two AR-15 rifles along with hundreds of rounds.
In the pre-dawn hours in the shaded neighborhood of his grandparents, just half a mile from the place he would have turned into a murder scene, Ramos wrote to the woman “I’m going” via Instagram and sent someone a private Facebook message saying he was going to shoot his grandmother.
Within hours he had done so.
Sometime after 11 a.m. a neighbor who was in his yard heard a shot and looked up and saw Ramos running out of his grandparents door to a pickup truck parked along a narrow street. The 18-year-old seemed to have panicked and struggled to get Ford out of the park, said 82-year-old Gilbert Gallegos.
Finally Ramos drove off, blowing up a spray of gravel. A few moments later, his grandmother came out of the one-story house in blood.
“That’s what he did,” Gallegos recalled as she shouted. “He shot me.”
Gallegos’ wife called 911 while he picked up the wounded woman in their backyard. As they hid and waited for the police, more shots were fired.
Authorities said by 11:28 a.m. Ramos had reached Rob Elementary School and crashed into a pickup truck in a drainage ditch. At this point, the video shows the teacher entering the school through the door he came out of and opened a minute earlier, according to Stephen McCrow, head of the Texas Department of Homeland Security.
These doors were usually closed and locked according to security protocol. But he remained open.
Witnesses say Ramos jumped out of the side of a truck driver with a rifle and a backpack full of ammunition. After shooting two men who came out of a nearby funeral home, Ramos jumped over a fence and headed for the school – still firing – while people who panicked nearby called police.
Authorities initially said Ramas exchanged fire with a school police officer before entering the building, but later they said the officer was not actually on campus and “ran” back when he heard the shooter.
But the officer first turned to the wrong man when he came across someone who had turned out to be a teacher – after passing a few feet from Ramos, who was stooping behind a car parked near the school.
From his shelter Ramos went to the open door, slipped through it and at 11:33 to the neighboring fourth grade class, authorities said. He quickly made over 100 shots.
In one of those rooms, 11-year-old Mia Serila shed her friend’s blood to look dead, she told CNN. After the shooter moved to the next room, she heard screams, even more gunfire and music thundering from the militant.
Two minutes after Ramos entered the school, three policemen followed him through the same door, and four more quickly joined them. Authorities said Ramas exchanged fire from a classroom with officers in the hallway, and two of them received “belt wounds.”
According to a man watching from a nearby house, the first police at the scene were preceded by a powerful high-end Ramas rifle.
“After he started shooting at police officers, police stopped firing,” said 24-year-old Juan Caranza. “One could say that the firepower he had was more powerful than the weapons of the police.”
After the shots were fired, a cafeteria employee who had just finished serving tacos with chicken to 75 third-graders said the woman shouted into the dining room, “The code is black. This is not a drill! ”
The staff did not know what the “black code” meant, but closed the blinds, closed the doors and escorted the students behind the scenes, said a worker who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid publicity. Then some employees hid in the kitchen.
Nearly half an hour after the first officers followed Ramas inside, as many as 19 rushed into the corridor, authorities said.
Meanwhile, students and faculty in another building tried to get out, some climbed out of the windows with the help of police.
Casares is not sure exactly when he arrived on the scene, but when he did, he saw about five officers helping people escape. He watched closely to see if there was among them Jacqueline, who, as he later said, loved gymnastics, singing and dancing.
About 15-20 minutes after he came to school, he said he first noticed officers arriving with heavy shields.
In the chaos he felt that time was “going so fast and he was going so slow”.
But he added: “From what I saw, everything could have been completely different.”
Other parents felt the same way. One of the observers recalled how the woman shouted at the officers, “Go there! Come there! ”
At 12:03 a student called 911 and whispered that she was in class with an armed man.
Minutes later, the Uwalde School District posted on Facebook that all campuses were closed, but that “students and staff are safe in the buildings. The buildings are safe. ”
The student called 911 again minutes after her first call to say there were several casualties, and shortly thereafter called back, saying eight or nine students were still alive.
Thirty-four minutes elapsed between the last call and the moment when a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team used a school officer’s key to unlock a classroom door and kill an armed man.
The open door let him in. The closed door did not keep him inside, and law enforcement agencies came out.
Police did not break into the class faster, because the commander in the building – the police chief of the school district Pete Andonda – believed that the situation turned from active shooting into a hostage situation, McCrov said from the Texas Public Security Department.
According to two law enforcement officers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, officers from other departments urged the school police chief to release them because the children were in danger. McCrow said the shooting was “sporadic” most of the time as officers waited in the hallway, and that investigators did not know if children had died during that time.
“It was the wrong decision,” McCrow said.
Associated Press reporters repeatedly tried to talk to Arendond at his home; during one visit someone opened the door and said the police chief would not speak. He also did not respond to a phone call left at the district police department.
The loss of so many young people and the admission of mistakes by the police questioned, even some supporters of the Second Amendment in the Texas community, a refrain used by state Republican leaders after that and other mass shootings: “What stops armed bad guys armed good guys.”
Casares, a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, said he was evading the policy, but added that he believed there should be stricter gun laws, including a better test of research. He called the sale of the type of gun that the attacker used on an 18-year-old “somewhat ridiculous.”
Casares left the school before officers killed Ramas at 12:50 p.m. He hurried to the hospital because his niece said she saw Jacqueline in the ambulance.
Soon the whole family gathered there, spending almost three hours seeking information from the hospital staff. Finally, the pastor, the policeman and the doctor met with them.
“My wife asked, ‘Is she alive or gone?'” Cazares said. “They said, ‘No, she’s gone.’
When he was finally able to see his daughter’s body, Casares swore that her death would not be in vain.
He later held back tears as he reflected on his daughter’s final moments.
“She could be bright,” he said. “Our hearts are comforted that she was one of those who was brave and tried to help as much as she could.”
Blayberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press reporters Jim Vertuna and Robert Bamstead of Uwalde, Mike Balsamo in Washington, and Stephen Groves in Sue Falls, South Dakota, contributed to the report.
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