In a CNN interview Thursday evening, DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez told Wolf Blitzer that those local responding officers were cautious about entering the school to take out the shooter because “they could’ve been shot.” The situation demanded caution, he said, because “ if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed, and that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.”
This all further upends the timeline of events provided by police and Texas officials immediately following the shooting and through the following days has been shifting dramatically, even on-the-fly in press conferences. The Washington Post has tracked the changes we’ve seen in the official story so far, detailing the “varied timelines and explanations of the massacre and law enforcement’s response,” as well as the “sometimes inconsistent or contradictory announcements about key details, such as how the shooter entered the school or how long he was inside.”
That includes changing their story entirely on whether anyone tried to stop the killer from entering the school. Early in the day Wednesday, the story was that a school resource officer exchanged gunfire with the killer, and was shot and wounded. Later that same day, the story changed to a school officer “engaging” the shooter, but with no exchange of gunfire. As of Thursday, Victor Escalon Jr., a regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety, significantly altered that story. “It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” Escalon said of the information provided by his agency the day before. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed.”
Sit with that a moment. “He walked in unobstructed.” So much for good guys with guns. Does a lot of good if they’re AWOL.
That was after, as the Post clarifies, we now know he was able to hang around outside the school for 12 minutes, shooting at people and at the school. That’s 12 minutes after he crashed his vehicle, not the story we heard on Wednesday from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that ”he ran into the school” right after the accident. In that 12 minutes, law enforcement received a phone call from the shooter’s grandmother saying he had just shot her in the face and took off. They have a wrecked vehicle and a young man wandering around a school with an AR-15 shooting at things for 12 minutes before going through what appeared to be an unlocked school door, “unobstructed.”
What happened inside that school, specifically what happened inside that fourth grade classroom over the next HOUR is the most horrifying, tragic, infuriating part. For an hour, officials are now admitting—an hour!—the shooter was in that classroom. Parents were rushing to the school, hearing the shots, hearing their children be shot.
One official said Wednesday that in that time officers had “continued to keep him pinned down in that location” while they waited for reinforcements. Then another official admitted that he wasn’t actually pinned down so much, but had put law enforcement “at a disadvantage” when he “was able to make entry into a classroom, barricade himself inside that classroom.” We’ve learned since that it wasn’t so much a barricade as a locked door that school staff had the key to. On Thursday, an official admitted that “the gunman was inside for about an hour before law enforcement officials confronted him.” That’s an hour on top of the 12 minutes before he entered the school in which law enforcement didn’t engage him.
That hour killed children.
One child in that classroom, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, likely saved herself when she smeared herself with the blood of her friend who had just been killed, and played dead. She had bullet fragments in her back, but has survived physically, her aunt Blanca Rivera told NBC News.
Another, a boy, told reporters that the shooter came into the classroom and said, “It’s time to die.” He, his best friend, and three other children hid beneath a table that was covered with a tablecloth, concealed from the gunman. They listened to their classmates and their teachers die. “They were nice teachers,” the boy said. “They went in front of my classmates to help. To save them.”