Uvalde Police Didn't Enter School As 'They Could've Been Shot'—Lieutenant

A Texas lieutenant has defended the actions of the police officers who responded to the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

Twenty-one people—19 children and two teachers—were killed in Tuesday's mass shooting. The gunman was later identified as Salvador Ramos, 18.

Lieutenant Chris Olivarez, from the Texas Department of Public Safety, was asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer why the officers did not storm the school as soon as they arrived.

Blitzer said: "Officers were on the scene within minutes of this gunman entering that elementary school, but it was another hour or so before the gunman was neutralized."

"Can you walk us through what exactly law enforcement was doing for 60 minutes or so while the shooter remained in that classroom killing those kids and teachers?"

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the gunman fired shots outside the school for 12 minutes before he walked in, citing a timeline set out by Victor Escalon, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Police arrived four minutes after the shooter entered the school, according to Escalon's timeline, "and exchanged gunfire with Ramos, who locked himself in a fourth-grade classroom."

Olivarez told Blitzer that the law enforcement agencies involved wanted to clarify the narrative on the shooting and pointed out that conflicting statements and reports have been circulating.

"We want to provide factual information by corroborating that information through physical evidence. This is still early stages in the investigation—that is one thing we need to understand," Olivarez said.

"One thing I want to stress is that officers were in that building within minutes. They maintained their presence inside that school.

"We had multiple officers that responded on the scene within minutes. Two of those officers were shot, they took cover because you have to understand this is an active situation.

"We have an active shooter that is shooting towards law enforcement as well as the children, the students, the teachers that are inside that school.

"Those officers maintained cover, they did not flee from that school … while they were being shot at."

He added that more officers arrived and began evacuating other children and teachers. The school was full, Olivarez said, and the authorities were trying to evacuate as many people as possible.

Blitzer asked whether it would have been better for the officers who arrived first to focus on eliminating the active shooter as quickly as possible.

Olivarez said: "What the American people need to understand is that officers are making entry into this building. They do not know where this gunman is.

"They are hearing gunshots, they are receiving gunshots. At that point, if they proceeded further without knowing where this suspect was at, they could have been shot, they could have been killed.

"At that point, that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.

"So, they were able to contain that gunman inside that classroom so that he was not able to go to any other portions of the school to commit any other killings."

In the wake of the shooting, members of the public have expressed their frustration at the Uvalde Police Department on social media.

"Why did it take over 1h to go in? How many lives could have been saved," wrote a Wilmington resident on the department's Facebook page.

The same question is being asked repeatedly on social media, particularly after footage was released that shows police officers restraining panicked parents outside the school rather than rushing in to rescue the children.

Newsweek has contacted the Uvalde Police Department for comment.