Had they acted more quickly, Uvalde police officers could have stopped the Texas shooter three minutes after he entered the school, a top Texas official said Tuesday.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw testified before a special State Senate committee to discuss the police response to the May shooting at Robb Elementary School.
"There's compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre," said McCraw, pointing to the 1999 school shooting in Colorado that ended the lives of 13 people.
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"Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject," McCraw said. "The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children."
A New York Times investigation in June found that at least one dozen students were alive while it took officers more than one hour to stop the gunman.
In his testimony before the Texas Senate on Tuesday, McCraw described the delays by law enforcement as “intolerable.”
“It set our profession back a decade,” he said.
As previously reported by NBC News, one FBI study of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 found that most end anywhere between two and five minutes.
"The officers had weapons; the children had none," McCraw noted. "The officers had body armor; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds — that's how long the children waited and the teachers waited in Room 111 to be rescued.
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"And while they waited, the on-site commander waited for radio and rifles," McCraw added. "And he waited for shields and he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed."
McCraw testified he believed that a classroom door, behind which staff and students waited, was not locked from the outside.
Earlier this month, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo told The Texas Tribune that he tried using multiple keys to open it during the shooting.
"Each time I tried a key I was just praying," he said, adding, "Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children."
At a school board meeting on Monday, NBC affiliate KXAN reported that some parents disagreed strongly with that assessment and called for Arredondo to be fired.
"Having Pete still employed, knowing he is incapable of decision-making that saves lives, is terrifying," said parent Brett Cross. "Do what is right. Remove Pete from employment."