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Delay in breaching classroom during Texas school shooting was "wrong decision," official says

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Response to Texas school shooting draws outrage 05:38

The decision by the on-site commander to delay breaching the classroom of a Texas elementary school during the mass shooting this week was the "wrong decision," authorities said Friday. Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classrooms during the attack on Robb Elementary School for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open a door and confront the gunman, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference.

The on-site commander — identified by the Associated Press as the school district's police chief — believed 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was barricaded in a classroom in Uvalde during Tuesday's attack and that the children were not at risk, McCraw said.

"He was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize" to get into the classroom, McCraw said.

"Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision," he said.

Officers at scene of school shooting in Uvalde, Texas
Officers at the scene of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. Pete Luna/Uvalde Leader-News

Friday's briefing came after authorities spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about the 90 minutes that elapsed between the time the gunman entered the school and when U.S. Border Patrol agents unlocked the classroom door and killed him. 

The U.S. Border Patrol tactical agents pressed local law enforcement to go into the school, but ultimately entered the building on their own initiative, federal law enforcement officials told CBS News Friday. The agents were backed up by law enforcement officials from several agencies.  

McCraw said there was a barrage of gunfire shortly after the gunman entered the classroom where they killed him but that shots were "sporadic" for much of the 48 minutes while officers waited outside the hallway. He said investigators do not know if or how many children died during those 48 minutes.

Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including a girl who pleaded: "Please send the police now," McCraw said.

Contrary to earlier statements by officials, a school district police officer was not inside the school when the gunman arrived. When that officer did respond, he unknowingly drove past the gunman, who was crouched behind a car parked outside and firing at the building, McCraw said.

The gunman killed 19 students and two teachers during the attack.

Officers at scene of school shooting in Uvalde, Texas
Children run from the scene of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. Pete Luna/Uvalde Leader-News

In an email obtained by CBS News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told the agency's employees that they will "work closely with the Texas Rangers and other investigative agencies to carefully examine the facts of the incident."

"Given the complexity of this tragic incident, and the number of law enforcement agencies involved, the investigation will take some time—but it is incredibly important to follow the facts as families and the public look for answers," the email said. "We will continue to coordinate and fully cooperate with investigators, and we are committed to sharing accurate information as facts are confirmed and additional details become available."

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he was "misled" when initially briefed about the police response.

"The information that I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate," he said. "And I'm absolutely livid about that."

"My expectation is that the law enforcement leaders that are leading the investigations, which includes the Texas Rangers and the FBI, they get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty," Abbott added. "There are people who deserve answers the most — and those are the families whose lives have been destroyed. They need answers that are accurate, and it is inexcusable that they may have suffered from any inaccurate information whatsoever." 

The motive for the massacre — the nation's deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying the gunman had no known criminal or mental health history.

Special Report: Texas officials say "wrong decision" delayed school shooting response 36:54

Nicole Sganga contributed reporting.

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