The families of victims killed in Uvalde school shooting express outrage after a leaked video of the attack shows slow police response.
A Texas newspaper has released a video of United States police and federal agents responding to the deadly shooting that occurred in May at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The 80-minute footage published on Tuesday shows the police waiting more than an hour before breaching the fourth-grade classroom where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.
The video was published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper days before officials said they had planned to show the families or release it publicly. The leak of the footage and what it shows reignited a new wave of public anger and grief.
The footage, which had not surfaced publicly until now, anguished Uvalde residents anew and redoubled calls in the small South Texas city for accountability and explanations that have been incomplete — and sometimes inaccurate — in the seven weeks since the shooting. Hours after the video was published, some residents at a Uvalde City Council meeting said they had not been able to bring themselves to watch it.
The video showed the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, crashing his pickup truck and entering Robb Elementary School carrying a semi-automatic rifle. The sound of gunfire is then heard for more than two minutes.
Police officers are seen arriving minutes later. They take cover at the end of a hallway leading to the two classrooms targeted by the shooter. Armed officers are also seen approaching the classroom where the shooting occurred but retreating when gunfire is heard.
Officers who arrive later with tactical gear and other equipment also appear hesitant to confront the gunman. Another 77 minutes passed before they eventually stormed the classroom and exchanged fire with the assailant more than an hour after he first opened fire.
The footage includes a 911 tape of a teacher screaming, “Get down! Get in your rooms! Get in your rooms!”
“Whoever leaked that video… I pray that you never have to deal with what all the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles are dealing with. Shame on you,” one family member said at a press conference in Washington DC.
The Austin American-Statesman newspaper defended its decision to publish the footage in an editorial late Tuesday. “Transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change,” said Editor Manny Garcia.
“Our goal is to continue to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary, which the families and friends of the Uvalde victims have long been asking for.”
Uvalde law enforcement officials have been greatly criticized for handling the rampage – especially for delaying the confrontation with the assailant.
A report commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety found earlier this month that a Uvalde police officer could have shot Ramos before he entered the school but hesitated while he waited for permission from a supervisor.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, and a Texas legislative committee investigating the attack have called for the surveillance footage to be made public. McLaughlin, speaking during a Uvalde City Council meeting on Tuesday, called it “wrong” and “chicken” for the newspaper to have released the video.
He said the video was not meant to be released until after victims’ families had a chance to view it and that it was meant to be edited.
“They didn’t need to see the gunman coming in and hear the gunshots. They don’t need to relive that; they’ve been through enough.”
The attack in Uvalde was one of the latest in a string of mass shootings across the U.S. that have renewed debate over gun laws and mental health. There has also been debate as to whether the news outlet should have leaked the video. Some feel that subjecting the families to prolonged emotional trauma is cruel, while others believe it was essential to reveal the failure of law enforcement. Will this unfortunate incident finally shine a light on gun control and police accountability in America? Time alone will tell.