A Texas Department of Public Safety official said officers at the scene of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, didn’t immediately enter the school because “they could’ve been shot.”
During an appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, Lt. Chris Olivarez defended the responding officers’ failure to act for nearly an hour as 19 children and two teachers were fatally shot inside the school.
“Don’t current best practices, don’t they call for officers to disable a shooter as quickly as possible, regardless of how many officers are actually on site?” Blitzer asked.
“The active shooter situation, you want to stop the killing, you want to preserve life, but also one thing that – of course, the American people need to understand — that officers are making entry into this building. They do not know where the gunman is. They are hearing gunshots,” Olivarez responded.
“They are receiving gunshots. At that point, if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed, and that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.”
According to experts, most “active shooter” incidents end within five minutes thanks to current standards that call for police to immediately act, NBC News reported. Uvalde police reportedly waited for an hour for backup to arrive.
“Waiting an hour is disgusting,” said former school resource officer Sean Burke, who is also president of the School Safety Advocacy Council, which trains districts on active shooter response. “If that turns out to be true, then it is a disgusting fact.”
Don Alwes, a former instructor for the National Tactical Officers Association, echoed Burke’s comments, asserting that police are obligated to immediately stop a threat.
“If you’ve got somebody you think is actively engaged in harming people or attempting to harm people, your obligation as a police officer is to immediately stop that person and neutralize that threat,” Alwes said. “We don’t expect police officers to commit suicide in doing it. But the expectation is that if someone is about to harm someone, especially children, you’ve got to take immediate action to make that stop.”
On Thursday, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said in a statement that his officers responded to the situation “within minutes.” He said that some officers “sustained gun-shot wounds from the suspect” and is “thankful that the officers did not sustain any life threatening injuries.”
“I understand questions are surfacing regarding the details of what occurred. I know answers will not come fast enough during this trying time, but rest assured that with the completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can,” he continued, as reported by Texomas. “I know words will never ease the pain that we are all suffering, but I hope you will join me in taking some solace in knowing that the pain comes from the fact that we all have such deep love for all the victims who have been taken from us, those who are recovering, and those who only time and love will continue to heal.”
Earlier this week, a Texas Department of Public Safety representative said a school resource officer had “engaged” with the shooter before he entered the school, but DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon later contradicted the department’s claim.
“He walked in unobstructed initially,” Escalon said, according to CNN. “So from the grandmother’s house, to the (ditch), to the school, into the school, he was not confronted by anybody.”