By Elaine Carlson
My cousin just sent me pictures of the 2 teachers and 17 of the 19 children who were killed in that mass shooting in Texas. I cried when I looked at their class photos in those small rectangular spaces on that page. Gawd dang how come the news can get to be so sad?
“From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course it was the wrong decision --- period,” Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
“When it comes to an active shooter, you don't have to wait on tactical gear, plain and simple.”
“There's no excuse for that,” McCraw said but quickly added, “But again, I wasn't there.”
In his remarks, McCraw was referring to the call by the on-scene commander at the time of Tuesday's attack to not enter the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman had been located for more than an hour.
“The damning assessment comes a day after officials confirmed that 'numerous' officers had been stationed just outside the classroom --- only to retreat and wait for a special tactical time to arrive [Inae Oh, Mother Jones Magazine May 27, 2022].”
McCraw seems to want to be firm in his “damning assessment.” But it is also easy to guess that the Director of Texas Department of Public Safety wanted to draw back and soften his critique of that small town police department. Did he say “I wasn't there” to somehow undermine his judgment? Like maybe in doing so people would think he doesn't know enough about the situation to be criticizing them?
Okay so he “wasn't there.” We know he wouldn't have been able to walk into the office of the on-scene commander and talk. But for the whole time of that siege he could have talked to anyone in the Uvalde Police Department by phone. And he could have done what almost everybody in the United States (and in the world) were doing – he could have followed the news on the television or on his computer.
He claimed that for most of the time the shooter was inside the classroom there were as many as 19 police officers waiting outside the classroom in a school hallway (the same number of children who died) [“What to Know About the School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas,: NYTimes May 30, 2022].
Maih Cerrillo, an eleven year old student, talked to reporters and told how she took a cell phone out of the purse of a teacher who died and repeatedly called 911 asking them to send in police. She also said she smeared the blood of one of the students who had been killed over herself and lay on the floor hoping the shooter would think she was dead.
The police roped off the area in front of the school in attempt to keep people out (mainly the parents of the young students in the classrooms). Those parents pleaded and pleaded with the offices to go in. And some of the parents said they would go inside if the cops didn't want to.
But the cops kept telling the adults not to enter the school. “Officers held back and tackled parents who tried to enter the school, further warning that they would use tasers if the parents did not comply with directions, video clips were uploaded to social media including one that depicted a parent being pinned to the ground. Police pepper-sprayed a parent trying to get their child, and an officer tackled a father [“Todd Elementary School shooting,” Wikipedia Last Updated June 1, 2022].”
I don't understand why McCraw thought he needed “the benefit of hindsight” to be able to characterize the police decision to not go into the classroom while the shooter was there to know it “was the wrong decision – period” and that “There is no excuse for that.”
Any proper review (“hindsight”) of this tragedy will look at the information that was available to the police when the shooter was in the classroom. If McCraw knew there were “as many as 19 police officers” milling around in the corridor just outside of the classroom the police also knew.
Also “hindsight” will consider the numerous calls to 911 the children in the classrooms made (and Miah Cerrillo was not the only child who called). And the pleading of the parents standing outside of the school.
Just think instead of going inside the police kept blocking parents access to their children. And tackled, pinned to the ground, and used lasers and tasers on the parents in their efforts to keep them outside of the school. All of those police actions should be part of McCraw's “hindsight.”
I am sure that soon we can expect to see True Crime books on this mass shooting. I also am sure some authors have already started their work. I can guess the title of one could be “Wrong Decision, Period.” I am sure “As Many As 19 Police Officers” with the subtitle “What They Did and Didn't Do” would be perfect.