The special committee investigating the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has dismissed a report that a police officer had the opportunity to shoot the shooter before he entered the building. school.
The Joint Committee of the Texas Legislature, which released the findings of its investigation Sunday into the May 24 massacre, found that a Uvalde police officer did not have the shooter in the crosshairs of his rifle scope before shooting. enter the school.
Instead, the committee found that the officer was targeting a school coach helping students get out of harm’s way and that the cop mistaking the coach for the suspect asked his sergeant for permission to pull the trigger. , who hesitated when he saw children in the line of fire, according to the committee.
The initial story that the officer had the opportunity to shoot the shooter outside the school – widely covered in the media, including ABC News – was part of an assessment of the police response released July 6 by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University San Marcos.
“A reasonable officer would conclude in this case, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the use of deadly force was justified,” the training center report said. He noted that if the situation “had worked out differently,” the officer could have “stopped the tragedy that followed.”
Uvalde: 365 is an ABC News continuing series reported from Uvalde and focused on the Texas community and how it continues in the shadow of tragedy.
But during its 44-day investigation into the rampage that left 19 students and two teachers dead, the joint Texas Legislature committee questioned the officer and his sergeant, whom the committee’s report identified as Daniel Coronado of the Uvalde Police Department, and deemed the training center account to be inaccurate.
The committee found that the unnamed officer and Coronado both heard gunshots when they arrived at the school around the same time.
“One of the officers testified to the Committee that based on the sound of the echoes, he believed the shooter had fired in their direction. This officer saw children dressed in bright colors in the playground, all running away” , according to the committee’s report. “Then, at a distance of more than 100 yards, he saw a person dressed in black also running away. Thinking that the person dressed in black was the attacker, he raised his rifle and asked Sergeant Coronado for permission to pull.”
Coronado told the committee that he heard the officer’s request, but was “hesitant” to respond, according to the committee’s report.
“He (Coronado) knew there were children present. He considered the risk of shooting a child, and he quickly recalled his training that officers are responsible for every shooting that takes place,” according to the committee’s report.
By the time the officer looked back, the man he had asked permission to shoot was no longer in his sights, according to the committee report.
But the officer who made the request to shoot told the committee that Coronado hadn’t had a chance to respond before he heard on their radios that the assailant was running towards the school.
“Officers testified to the committee that it turned out that the person they saw dressed in black was not the assailant, but rather Robb Elementary coach Abraham Gonzales,” the committee wrote in his report.
Gonzales, who was interviewed by Texas Department of Public Safety investigators, said he was heading to the campus parking lot to leave the school when he heard a gunshot, then heard another school coach on his two-way radio reporting shots fired. , according to the committee.
“He told the children around him to run away,” according to the committee’s report.
Two teachers who testified before the committee said Gonzales yelled at their students to “lock up” as the attacker approached the school building.
The committee found that the shooter entered the school unimpeded through one of three unlocked doors on the west side of campus.
“Of the approximately 142 rounds the assailant fired inside the building, it is almost certain that he quickly fired more than 100 of those rounds before officers entered,” the committee said in its statement. report.
Investigators said a group of police officers entered the school building three minutes after the shooter and retreated to a hallway when they came under fire.
Two days after the training center report was released, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin released a statement claiming the report was wrong.
“None of the Uvalde cops had the opportunity to shoot the shooter,” McLaughlin said. “An officer from the Uvalde Police Department saw someone outside but was unsure who he saw and also observed children in the area. It turned out to be a trainer with kids on the playground, not the shooter.”
As the investigation into one of the deadliest school shootings in US history unfolds, law enforcement and government officials have come under intense scrutiny for the twisted narrative of crucial elements of the police response.
At his press conference the day after the rampage, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Department of Public Safety officials called the police response swift, saying school officers engaged the shooter. before he enters school. But as more evidence was uncovered, the delay went from a quick response to one that took 77 minutes from when the shooter entered the school to when he was killed by officers.
Abbott later said he was “livid” after initially being “cheated” about the police response.
Days after Texas Public Safety Director Steve McCraw criticized law enforcement’s handling of the shooting, Uvalde officials sought a more positive portrayal of the police response, according to a memo obtained by ABC News.
The one-page memo, first reported by The New York Times, described a version of events that defended law enforcement’s response, contrary to earlier accounts of the massacre. It was presented by the Uvalde City Attorney to McCraw at a June 2 meeting, but was immediately dismissed.
The Texas Legislature’s Joint Report Committee also criticized the publication of “false and misleading information” and called on law enforcement to be “very careful in stating which facts are verifiable and which are not.” not”.