Two police officers from the city of Uvalde passed up a fleeting opportunity to shoot a gunman at Robb Elementary School before killing 21 people in the school, a senior sheriff’s deputy told the New York Times.
That would be another missed opportunity for officers to stop Salvador Ramos from the May 24 attack at the school that killed 19 children and two teachers. Officials said a school district police officer drove past Ramos without seeing him in the school’s parking lot.
The unidentified officers, one of whom was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, said they feared hitting children playing in the line of fire outside the school, Deputy Deputy Ricardo Rios of the nearby county of Zavalla told the newspaper.
The officers’ chance to stop the gunman passed quickly, perhaps in seconds, Rios said.
Reports from the Associated Press to Rios and the County Sheriff of Zavala were not returned. Zavala County Sheriff’s Office officials responded to the shooting in support of Uvalde and Uvalde officers.
Rios said he shared the information with a special Texas House Committee investigating the school massacre.
Uvalde police officials agreed on Friday to speak with the investigating committee, according to a Republican lawmaker who led the investigation and began to question publicly why the officers hadn’t cooperated sooner.
“It took a little longer than we initially expected,” said State Representative Dustin Burrows.
On Thursday, Burrows expressed impatience with Uvalde police by tweeting that most people had fully cooperated with their investigation “to help establish the facts” and that he failed to understand why the city’s police “wouldn’t want the same thing.” . He did not say which members of the department will meet with the committee, which will continue to question witnesses in Uvalde on Monday about the attack that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Uvalde police did not respond to messages asking for comment.
Weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in US history, law enforcement officials have stopped providing updates on what they learned about the shooting and police response. Their silence comes after authorities made conflicting and inaccurate statements in the days following the shooting and retracted statements, sometimes hours after they were made.
Officials also have not released records sought under public information laws from media outlets, including the Associated Press, often citing broad exceptions and the ongoing investigation. It has expressed concerns about whether such records will be released, even to the families of the victims.
The state house committee has so far interviewed more than a dozen witnesses behind closed doors, including state police, school personnel and the school district police. Pete Arrendondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, who has been criticized for his actions during the attack, has so far not been included in the list of witnesses the commission has provided.
Burrows defended the commission by interviewing witnesses privately and not disclosing their findings so far, saying its members want an accurate record before issuing a report.
“One person’s truth may be different from another’s truth,” Burrows said Friday.
Since the shooting, Republican leaders in Texas have called for more funding for mental health care, but not new gun restrictions. According to authorities, the 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Police did not confront the gunman for an hour, even as harassed parents outside the school urged officers to enter.