(CNN) — Alfred Garza was outside Robb Elementary School Tuesday as the shooting unfolded trying to remain calm, even as other parents were panicking, so authorities could “do their job as we were asked,” in hopes of getting them out. quickly to his daughter from danger.
Inside, an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers, a bloodbath that cost the life of Garza’s 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo.
Now, after the new conference given by the authorities on Friday, revealing that the first agents entered the school more than an hour before the attacker was killed, Garza said he is “in disbelief.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it took too long to get there and, you know, if they had gotten there sooner and someone had taken immediate action, we could have more of those kids here today,” he told CNN. “Including my daughter”.
The fullest details yet on the police response, confusing and contradictory in the first few days, were provided on Friday. They highlighted a staggering breach of police inaction that has angered grieving families and the shattered community of Uvalde, Texas.
“We were asking and begging (authorities) to do something,” Jennifer Gaitan, whose daughter was at school during the shooting, told CNN on Friday night, adding that an officer had a physical confrontation with her. “I feel like they weren’t concerned about the actual trauma that was going on inside.”
“They waited too long because I was here. And I’m not the only mother who witnessed it.”
At the news conference, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said the first Uvalde police officers entered the school about two minutes after the shooter, and more than an hour before they finally killed him.
In that 70-plus minute window, other officers arrived at the building, McCraw said. They asked for more resources, equipment and negotiators, among other things, but they did not break down the doors of the classroom where the attacker Salvador Ramos was hiding.
At one point, more than 45 minutes before the shooter was killed, as many as 19 officers were standing in the hallway.
The officer who made the decision to keep officers from entering the classroom was the school district’s police chief, authorities said Friday.
These are the victims of the Texas school shooting
The attacker came out of a closet
The decisive action was taken when a unit of Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene. As they entered the classroom, the gunman came out of a closet and began shooting, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
One of those agents was holding a shield and was followed by at least two others who attacked the assailant, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official said.
The attacker is believed to have waited for officers to enter the room, then kicked open the closet and began shooting, the source said.
The Washington Post first reported details about the gunman who emerged from the classroom closet.
Police shot and killed Ramos at approximately 12:50 p.m., more than an hour after he entered the school building and began firing into adjoining classrooms, McCraw said.
The “wrong decision” of a police chief
The police chief for the Uvalde School District, who McCraw said made the decision not to break down the classroom door but did not mention his name, is Pedro “Pete” Arredondo.
“The decision was made that this was a barricaded subject situation,” McCraw said of the commander’s “thought process” about the incident at the time.
“From the hindsight that I’m sitting on now, of course it wasn’t the right call,” McCraw said of the order not to confront the shooter. “It was the wrong call. Period.”
McCraw declined to comment on whether Arredondo was at the scene during the shooting. CNN tried to reach Arredondo at his home on Friday, but there was no response.
At earlier news conferences hours after the shooting, the chief said the shooter was dead, but provided little information about the attack, citing research and not answering questions.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday that he wants a full account of what happened, but added that he has no say in whether the school district’s police chief should be fired.
“As far as their employment status is concerned, that is something that is out of my control and I am not aware of it,” the governor said, adding, “Every act of all those officials will be known, identified and explained to the public.”
Training Manual: Agent’s First Priority Is “Confronting the Attacker”
Guidelines on handling armed attacker situations in the state law enforcement commission’s training manual obtained by CNN say “an officer’s first priority is to move and confront the attacker.”
The 2020 manual says carrying out that first priority and confronting the attacker “may include overlooking the injured and failing to respond to children’s cries for help.”
“As first responders, we must recognize that innocent life must be defended,” he says. “A first responder who is unwilling to put the lives of innocents above his own safety should consider another career field.”
All law enforcement officers in Texas are trained in those guidelines.
“Somehow someone has to answer for what was done,” Garza, the young victim’s father, said, calling for accountability for how authorities responded. “When somebody out here does something wrong, they have to pay for it, so what does the law have to pay for? Whoever was responsible, how are they going to try to make it right?”
“Someone has to be held accountable. Someone was wrong,” he added.
So far, two Uvalde funeral homes have announced visitation and funeral plans for several of the shooting victims, including Amerie Jo, according to postings on their websites.
“My daughter is gone and we are trying to give her a break and put her at peace,” Garza said.
CNN’s Curt Devine, Ed Lavandera, Amanda Watts, Adrienne Broaddus, Andy Rose and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.