Nearly 20 police officers waited for nearly an hour in a hallway outside the classrooms where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in a Texas elementary school, even as panicked 911 calls were placed from inside the rooms pleading for police to intervene, authorities said on Friday.
At least one child and one teacher made multiple calls to the 911 emergency number from the two connecting classrooms after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had entered with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, according to Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
In hindsight, McCraw told reporters at a news briefing, "it was the wrong decision" for the onsite commander to wait for a specially trained tactical team before trying to enter the classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Someone whom McCraw did not identify called the 911 line multiple times starting at 12:03 p.m., telling police in a whisper that there were multiple dead and that there were still "eight to nine" students alive, the colonel said. A student called at 12:47 p.m. and asked the operator to "please send the police now."
Officers did not go into the classroom until 12:50 p.m., according to McCraw, when the US Border Patrol tactical team used keys from a janitor to open the locked door and kill Ramos.
Several officers had an initial exchange of gunfire with Ramos shortly after he entered the school at 11:33 a.m., when two officers were grazed by bullets. There were as many as 19 officers in the hallway by 12:03 p.m., McCraw said - the same time that the first 911 call from inside the classroom was received.
Police recovered 142 spent rounds inside the school from Ramos' rifle, as well as nearly two dozen more on school property outside the building, McCraw said.
Videos that emerged on Thursday showed frantic parents urging police to storm the school during the attack, with some having to be restrained by police.
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