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Police response to Uvalde mass shooting slammed as 'abject failure'

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Texas police had enough armed officers on the scene of the Uvalde school mass shooting to stop the gunman after he entered the building, a hearing has heard.

There were enough officers on the scene to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it, the head of the Texas state police testified.

He pronounced the law enforcement response an "abject failure."

READ MORE: Footage shows armed police in US school almost an hour before gunman killed

Officers with rifles instead stood in a hallway for over an hour, waiting in part for more firepower and other gear, before they finally stormed the classroom and killed the gunman Salvador Ramos, putting an end to the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

"I don't care if you have on flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, you go in," Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in blistering testimony at a state Senate hearing on Tuesday (Wednesday, AEST).

The classroom door, it turned out, could not be locked from the inside, according to McCraw, who said a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock was broken. Yet there is no indication officers tried to open it during the stand-off, McCraw said. He said police instead waited for a key.

"I have great reasons to believe it was never secured," McCraw said of the door. "How about trying the door and seeing if it's locked?"

Delays in the law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.

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McCraw lit into Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief who McCraw said was in charge, saying: "The only thing stopping a 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."

"Obviously, not enough training was done in this situation, plain and simple. Because terrible decisions were made by the on-site commander," McCraw said. He said investigators have been unable to "re-interview" Arredondo.

Arredondo has said he didn't consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response.

He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press. A lawyer for Arredondo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Delays in the law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.

Crosses with the names of Tuesday's shooting victims are placed outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The public safety chief presented a timeline that said three officers with two rifles entered the building less than three minutes after the gunman, an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Several more officers entered minutes after that.

Two of the officers who entered the hallway early on were grazed by gunfire.

The decision by police to hold back went against much of what law enforcement has learned in the two decades since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in which 13 people were killed in 1999, McCraw said.



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