Nearly a month after the massacre at a Texas elementary school, the school district’s police chief has been suspended until further notice. There are several ongoing investigations into the incident, but it is unclear when the results will be available, Uvalde School District Superintendent Dal Harrell said on Wednesday (local time). In view of the “continued lack of clarity”, he decided to put police chief Pete A. on leave with immediate effect, it said.
Further dramatic mistakes in the police operation became known on Tuesday. At a hearing in the Texas Senate, Texas Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said just three minutes after the shooter entered a classroom and opened fire, nine police officers were outside the room, two of them with guns. More were gradually added.
Instead of intervening, they would have wasted valuable time looking for a key to the classroom in which the 18-year-old perpetrator had holed up.
McCraw said the door to the classroom wasn’t even locked as far as we know. But none of the police officers present tried to simply open the door. Instead, the operations manager waited for reinforcements, more guns and protective equipment – and for a key to the classroom “that was never used”.
On May 24, the perpetrator shot dead 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in the small Texas town of Uvalde. The attacker had fired at the children and teachers in two connected classrooms with an assault rifle.
In such a situation, if in doubt, a police officer with a gun is enough to go in and stop the gunman – even if that poses a risk for the officer. “Once you are there, it is your duty to intervene immediately and stop the shooter.”
The police officers outside the room had guns, protective gear and training for such situations, but the children had none, McCraw said. Nevertheless, the students and teachers had to wait “an hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds” for emergency services to enter the room to save them. “That is intolerable.” The operations manager made “terrible decisions”. He decided to put police officers’ lives ahead of children’s lives. McCraw spoke of “miserable failure”.