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‘More Could Have Been Done’: Texas Police Under Scrutiny Over Response To School Shooting

Texas law enforcement agencies are coming under scrutiny over their response to the mass shooting at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, after it emerged that the gunman remained barricaded inside a classroom for up to an hour before his bloody rampage was brought to an end.

Accounts given by local officials and media reports have confirmed that not only did the gunman evade armed guards outside the school, but he also locked himself into a classroom for 40 to 60 minutes while he carried out his killings.

By the time a tactical team from Customs and Border Protection broke into the classroom and killed the gunman, he had murdered 19 children aged eight to 10 and their two teachers.

The Associated Press reported that as the massacre was unfolding, several parents and other local people expressed distress at the apparent hesitation of law enforcement to storm the school. Juan Carranza, who lives beside the school, told the news agency he witnessed women shouting at officers: “Go in there! Go in there!”

The officers did not go into the building, Carranza said.

Javier Cazares, whose 10-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed, told AP that police appeared unprepared.

“More could have been done,” he said.

He said he and other residents gathered outside the school started to plan their own rescue mission as the gunman remained locked inside.

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said.

A video recorded by residents and posted on social media captured in real time the anger of parents at the spectacle of armed police standing outside the school and not going in. “They are all fucking parking outside, man – they need to go in there, they are all in there. The cops aren’t doing shit but standing outside,” shouted one father.

A distressed mother yelled: “I’m going to go. All these kids are in the school and they are just standing there. Our kids are there, my son is right there.”

As tension mounted, a police officer is filmed trying to push parents back from the side of the school. “You know that there are kids, right? There are little kids. They don’t know how to defend themselves from the shooter,” the father said.

The criticism of what parents and residents saw as an inadequate law enforcement response was unwittingly compounded by comments from local security leaders.

Steve McCraw, director of public safety for the district, told reporters: “The bottom line is law enforcement was there. They did engage immediately. They did contain [the shooter] in the classroom.”

While “contained” in that classroom, the gunman carried out all his 21 killings.

Further agonising details of the shooting emerged on Thursday. A 10-year-old boy in the next classroom described how he crouched with a friend under a desk. The boy said at one point the shooter entered his classroom and threatened him.

Uvalde was the 213th mass shooting in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent database. It defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed.

Robb elementary was the 27th US school to have experienced a shooting this year, Education Week reported.

The horror of so many children dying in a classroom has prompted renewed soul-searching at all levels of American public life. Joe Biden attempted on Wednesday to counter resistance from Republicans in Congress to basic gun regulations by saying that “the second amendment is not absolute”.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, which saw the devastating Sandy Hook school shooting almost a decade ago in which 20 young children were killed, is leading attempts to enlist Republican support for gun control reform. He is known to have spoken with two Republican senators – Susan Collins from Maine and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania.

The talks are focusing on FBI background checks for all firearms sales and a so-called “red flag law” to confiscate guns from individuals who might harm themselves or others.

At a rally in Washington held by Everytown For Gun Safety on Thursday, Murphy said he was engaged in bipartisan conversations to try to make the streets and schools safer. “I hope we will find that common ground, we are going to work our tails off to achieve that compromise,” he said.

The gun debate has been most intense in Texas as the state deals with yet another mass shooting. Some of the deadliest events in recent times have taken place in Texas, including the 2017 attack on a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs that killed 25 and the 2019 rampage in a Walmart in El Paso that left 23 dead.

The Republican-controlled state legislature continues to loosen already minimal gun regulations, in the name of what political leaders call second amendment “freedoms”. A year ago the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed a new provision that allows Texans to carry handguns in public without a license or training.

Abbott was confronted on Wednesday as he held a press conference over the Uvalde shooting by Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat running against him in November.

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke interjected from the audience. “This will continue to happen, somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed.”

O’Rourke was escorted out of the room as the Republican mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, called him a “sick son of a bitch”.

Ted Cruz, the Republican senator for Texas, was confronted by some hard facts by Sky News and ended up walking away from the camera complaining about “propaganda”. Asked for his response to the massacre, Cruz played an emotive card, saying in a shaking voice: “There are 19 sets of parents who are never going to get to kiss their child goodnight again.”

Pressed by the Sky News reporter on why the epidemic of mass shootings happens only in America, Cruz walked away from the interview, saying: “Stop being a propagandist.”

The ratio of firearms to population in the US far outstrips any other country in the world and is more than double the rate of the second country, Yemen, which is undergoing a brutal civil war. The US also has a dramatically higher rate of gun deaths than any other high-income country.

Further heated confrontations are expected on Friday when the National Rifle Association, the lobby group that has been the most vociferous opponent of gun safety laws, holds its annual meeting in Houston. Abbott will be among the speakers. So will Donald Trump.

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