A Uvalde School District police officer has admitted to passing up a chance to shoot 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos because he was scared of hitting children behind the killer.
The admission, uncovered by the New York Times on Friday, revealed that the unnamed cop was holding an AR-15 after rushing to Robb Elementary School on May 24.
He then saw Ramos still outside the building, firing shots at a nearby funeral home.
That cop said he tried to take aim at Ramos, but was unable to do so because of children standing behind him, for fear of hitting them instead, Chief Deputy Ricardo Rios of nearby Zavalla County said.
The officer’s chance of stopping Ramos passed quickly, perhaps in seconds, Rios said. Any shot was further hampered by Ramos’ constant movement, making taking a safe shot even more difficult.
Rios said that cop feared he’d be condemned if he’d opened fire and hurt a child in the process of trying to take down Ramos.
The Times also stated conflicting reports on what the children were doing at the time. The cop who arrived on the scene claiming they were playing, while a deputy from a local sheriff’s officer said they were running from the impending massacre.
Friday’s revelation sheds further light on allegations cops could have stopped Ramos before he managed to murder 19 children and two teachers.
The cops involved are now under investigation from the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Justice Department and a special committee of the Texas Legislature.
This admission would mean a second missed opportunity for officers to stop Salvador Ramos before the May 24 rampage inside Robb Elementary School.
Officials said that a school district police officer had earlier driven past Ramos without seeing him in the school parking lot.
The Zavala County sheriff’s officials responded to the shooting in support of Uvalde and Uvalde County officers.
Rios said he had shared the information with a special Test House committee investigating the school massacre.
Uvalde police officials agreed Friday to speak to the committee investigating, according to a Republican lawmaker leading the probe who had begun to publicly question why the officers were not cooperating sooner.
‘Took a little bit longer than we initially had expected,’ state Rep. Dustin Burrows said.
On Thursday, Burrows signaled impatience with Uvalde police, tweeting that most people had fully cooperated with their investigation ‘to help determine the facts’ and that he didn’t understand why the city’s police force ‘would not want the same.’
He did not say which members of the department will meet with the committee, which is set to continue questioning witnesses in Uvalde on Monday about the attack.
Uvalde police did not reply to messages seeking comment.
Weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, law enforcement officials have stopped providing updates about what they’ve learned about the shooting and the police response.
Their silence comes after authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts in the days after the shooting, sometimes withdrawing statements hours after making them.
Officials also haven’t released records sought under public information laws to media outlets, often citing broad exemptions and the ongoing investigation. It has raised concerns about whether such records will be released, even to victims’ families.
The state House committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses behind closed doors so far, including state police, school staff and school district police.
The list of witnesses provided by the committee so far has not included Pete Arrendondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, who has faced criticism over his actions during the attack.
Burrows defended the committee interviewing witnesses in private and not revealing their findings so far, saying its members want an accurate account before issuing a report.
‘One person’s truth may be different than another person’s truth,’ Burrows said Friday.
Since the shooting, Republican leaders in Texas have called for more mental health funding but not new gun restrictions.
Authorities say the 18-year-old gunman used and AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Police did not confront he gunman for more than an hour, even as anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go in.