This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — It is not irregular for information directly following a mass shooting to change. There’s often a massive response by law enforcement agencies, the scene officers arrive at is typically vast and chaotic, and investigations into how and why a mass killing happened often take weeks, if not months and years.
That said, the misinformation spread by leaders in the aftermath of the Texas school shooting in Uvalde has been extensive and has drawn an abnormal amount of scrutiny.
From learning a school resource officer did not confront the gunman before he entered the school, to details about how the shooter got into the school in the first place, details have changed and been contradicted. Here’s a timeline of the misinformation that’s been spread, and what we know now.
May 24: ‘There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary’
There were only a few days remaining in the school year for students and teachers at Robb Elementary. Staff were having end-of-year parties and banners congratulating students were hanging from the blue and green walls.
At 12:17 p.m., the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District posted on Facebook: “There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site.” It was the first official notification to the public that a tragedy was unfolding.
A timeline compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety would later show that at 11:33 a.m. on May 24, an 18-year-old shooter entered the elementary school through the west door and started shooting. Only two minutes later, three Uvalde police officers entered the same door.
It took law enforcement 1 hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds to shoot and kill that suspect, but that wasn’t always the story.
May 24: Gov. Abbott names shooter, confirms fatalities
It was Gov. Greg Abbott who first released details about what may have happened at Robb Elementary School earlier that day, and he said that at least 15 people were dead. That death toll would later rise.
“I want to tell you that what happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy that can not be tolerated in the state of Texas and there is swift action being taken by local law enforcement as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety,” Abbott said in a news conference.
Abbott was the first to name the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, and confirm that he had been shot and killed by responding law enforcement.
“It is believed that he abandoned his vehicle and entered into the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde with a handgun and he may have also had a rifle, but that is not yet confirmed according to my most recent report,” Abbott said. We have since learned that the shooter had an AR-15-style rifle, which he purchased legally on his 18th birthday.
Abbott said two responding officers were “struck by rounds” but did not have serious injuries. He was also the first to report that the suspect shot his grandmother before arriving at the school. Those details would later be confirmed.
At that point, the governor said 14 students and one teacher were dead. It was the first indication from an official that this was indeed a mass shooting. Later that night, Texas DPS updated the death toll to 19 children and two teachers. Others were injured, and in varying conditions.
“When parents drop their kids off at school, they have every expectation to know that they’re going to be able to pick their child up when that school day ends,” Abbott said.
May 24: Chief Arredondo holds first news conference
Very few details were shared by Uvalde CISD Chief of Police Pete Arredondo in the hours following the mass killing of students and teachers at one of the elementary schools he oversees in his role. At 2:27 p.m., the school district announced a press conference would be taking place at the Willie DeLeon Civic Center.
At that conference, the director of communications and marketing for Uvalde CISD, Anne Marie Espinoza, told reporters the district would only be making a statement and would not be answering questions.
“Good afternoon. As she [Espinoza] mentioned I’m going to make a statement and at this point won’t take any, any um questions,” Arredondo began his first news conference. The police chief did not provide a detailed timeline of police response to the school but only said there was a “mass casualty” incident at Robb Elementary. He did not mention his involvement in entering the school, nor his apparent handling of the officers beneath him and those who would later arrive to help.
“I can confirm right now that we have several injuries, adults and students, and we do have some deaths,” Arredondo continued. “The suspect is deceased at this point. DPS is assisting with the investigation and at this point the investigation is leading to tell us that the suspect did act alone during the heinous crime.”
Arredondo briefly talked about the family reunification process and what was happening at other schools in the district before wrapping up the news conference less than a minute and 30 seconds after he started giving remarks.
May 24: ‘We don’t know anything about our children’
As the sun set Tuesday, some families of victims still hadn’t heard from officials on whether their children were among those injured or dead.
When we met with Alfred Garza, the father of 9-year-old Amerie Jo Garza, he was waiting outside of a church near the school hoping for answers. One by one, parents and siblings of school children were called into the place of worship to be told their loved ones had been shot and killed. Some family members were asked to give DNA swabs.
Garza expressed frustration at investigators and state officials for releasing death numbers before families were notified.
“We don’t know anything about our children,” he said, “and yet they can put that information out there to public, and yet we’re still waiting to hear from our own children.”
When we spoke to Garza, he told us he knew his daughter was at least one of the injured ones saying “hopefully she’s out there, and she’s scared. I know she’s scared.” Amerie Jo was later confirmed to be one of the students who died that day.
May 25: ‘They [police] showed incredible courage’
The day after the shooting, a frenzy of media outlets flocked to Uvalde to start collecting details on the tragedy that had occurred. When law enforcement and state officials hosted news conferences, it was broadcast around the world.
That’s also when officials started giving information that later turned out to be inaccurate. The first big inaccuracy from officials was on May 25, when Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said a Uvalde CISD police officer was the first person to engage the shooter before he made his way into Robb Elementary. It would later be determined that a patrol officer drove past the shooter in the parking lot and that the suspect would walk into the school without encountering any resistance.
“The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed incredible courage running toward gunfire trying to save lives,” Abbott said on May 25. He later expressed outrage at being misinformed by local law enforcement himself.
“It is a fact, that because of their quick response getting on the scene, being able to respond to the gunman and eliminate the gunman, they were able to save lives. Unfortunately, not enough,” the governor continued.
May 26: ‘According to the information I have…’
In the days following the first accounts of what happened at Robb Elementary, law enforcement would later clarify that the suspect walked into the school without being approached by any Uvalde CISD officers. We would also learn that it took law enforcement more than an hour to enter the classroom where the suspect was holed up with students and teachers, some alive and some dead.
Texas DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon was the first to give a detailed law enforcement timeline of the shooter and law enforcement actions. It sparked questions from the media and lawmakers.
“There were numerous officers at that classroom, numerous, once we interview all those officers, what they were thinking, what they did, why they did it, the video, the residual interviews, we’ll have a better idea. Could anybody have gone there sooner? You gotta understand it’s a small town,” Escalon said.
Reporters at the Thursday news conference continued to press on whether officers could or should have breached the door and gone in after the shooter to which Escalon responded: “Our job is to report the facts and later we can answer those questions.”
In an interview one the same day, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), questioned that police response.
“The problem with this is there were multiple points of failure, and it looks like, maybe the lessons that we learned after Columbine where the police waited outside until the shooters came out — and what we learned and what we implemented was something called active shooter training so the police can go in and disrupt the shooting — and the carnage and stop the additional killing,” Cornyn said. “There’s a lot of different things to learn about this. It’s too early to draw any definite conclusions but we are going to work on it.”
May 27: Questions about law enforcement response, how shooter entered exterior school door
Four days after the shooting took place, state law enforcement revealed responding officers made no attempts to breach a classroom to rescue the children inside from an active shooter for about an hour. McCraw said it was believed the incident had turned into a barricaded subject call. That, again, would later be challenged.
“The on-scene commander considered it a barricaded subject and that there was time, and there were no more children at risk,” McCraw said. “Obviously based upon the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was in fact still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject.”
When asked by reporters, McCraw admitted “it was a wrong decision, period.”
McCraw also said during the time law enforcement was waiting to breach the classroom, children pleaded on the phone with 911 at least twice to send in police.
McCraw said a teacher had propped open the door before the shooter came into the school, but it was supposed to be locked. That turned out to be incorrect and was later redacted.
May 27: Gov. Abbott ‘livid’ about misinformation
On May 27, Gov. Greg Abbott said he was “livid” over misinformation received on the sequence of events leading up to and during the mass school shooting.
“Short answer. Yes, I was misled. I am livid about what happened,” Abbott said. “I was on this very stage, and I was telling the public what had been told to me. I wrote down hand notes in detail what everybody in that room told me. The information I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I’m absolutely livid about that. My expectation is that the law enforcement leaders that are leading the investigation… they get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty.”
May 31: Exterior door not propped open, but didn’t lock
In an interview with NewsNation, the teacher state police originally said left the exterior door propped open told the network she actually, “kicked the rock, and then locked [the door].”
On May 31, investigators backtracked on their previous statement and said the teacher had propped the door open, but removed the rock and closed the door as the shooter approached. However, DPS officials said the door did not lock. It’s not clear why.
In response to conflicting accounts developing from the shooting, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas endorsed an independent investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. It will do just that. CLEAT also said the following:
“There has been a great deal of false and misleading information in the aftermath of this tragedy. Some of the information came from the very highest levels of government and law enforcement. Sources that Texans once saw as iron-clad and completely reliable have now been proven false. This false information has exacerbated ill-informed speculation which has, in turn, created a hotbed of unreliability when it comes to finding the truth. The truth we all can trust. For this reason, we believe that a strong, independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice with assistance from the FBI will discover what really happened, thus helping agencies everywhere to understand how best to stop a similar compounded tragedy from happening again.“
Timeline becomes clearer
Between the media, lawmakers releasing information and the law enforcement depictions of what happened on May 24, a timeline is starting to become clearer. Below is what we know about the events of the mass shooting, using testimony from the Texas DPS.
June 12: Firm representing Uvalde responds to KXAN’s request for records
Several weeks after the mass shooting, KXAN received a copy of a letter sent to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from a law firm representing the city of Uvalde. The letter was regarding the distribution of information from open records requests made surrounding the May 24 mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
In the letter, the law firm, Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, P.C., requested Paxton decide if the requested information is exempt from disclosure under the Public Information Act.
The law firm said the city of Uvalde claimed, “the requested information is not information that is collected, assembled or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by a governmental body or for a governmental body or is excepted from disclosure.”
KXAN requested the 911 recordings and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) report, as well as 911 transcriptions of calls made surrounding the shooting.
On Thursday, the law firm responded to KXAN acknowledging the open records request, but the requested information was not provided — only an explanation and copy of the letter sent to Paxton were given. The law firm made a list of 52 items it believed should be excluded from open records requests surrounding the school shooting.
Early June: Media reports reveal police inaccuracies, failures
While information from law enforcement and the City of Uvalde has been difficult to obtain, media outlets have chipped away at the truth using information gathered through public information requests and from lawmakers who have shared tapes and recordings with members of the media.
The New York Times was the first to publish a bombshell report that showed officers actually questioned the decision to wait outside the classroom instead of rushing in. The Times detailed officers passing information up the chain of command to indicate students and teachers were still alive and needed help inside that room, which contradicts the notion that law enforcement believed this was a barricaded subject situation and not a mass shooter situation. They also detailed a breakdown in communication, including that radios may not have worked within the school. The school district’s police chief did not bring his radio at all, records showed.
Later, the San Antonio Express-News reported that there is no evidence that officers even tried the doors on rooms 111 and 112 — where the shooter was — contradicting an assertion by Arredondo. He told The Texas Tribune that officers tried the doors, found them locked and waited for a master key to unlock them.
On Monday evening, the Austin American-Statesman reported for the first time that despite early reports that police were outgunned and waiting for protective equipment, they had the firepower and equipment to effectively take down the shooter.
June 21: Classroom doors did not lock from the inside
In testimony from McCraw, it was revealed at the Texas State Capitol nearly a month after the shooting that the doors inside Robb Elementary were unlocked during the shooting, which appears to contradict the district’s policy that requires classroom doors to be “closed and locked at all times.”
McCraw said their investigation showed the doors could not even be locked from the inside of the classroom, only the outside. In response, the Texas Education Agency announced it will test doors at every public school in Texas.
“This is ridiculous and inexcusable if you are looking at it from a security standpoint,” said McCraw.
June 22: Information being revealed as Texas Senate committee continues hearing
Committee Chair Sen. Robert Nichols and the rest of the group will hear both invited and public testimony on mental health and firearm safety, a public notice of the meeting said.
Also on Wednesday, the Texas state senator who represents Uvalde announced he is suing the Texas DPS for denying him access to public records related to the mass shooting.
In an open records request to McCraw on May 31, Sen. Roland Gutierrez requested the ballistics report on the shooting, any policy manuals or documents that show how DPS and local law enforcement are supposed to work together during active shooter or hostage situations and any documents or reports that detail how police and DPS responded to Robb Elementary.
Gutierrez also requested information showing the exact times that each law enforcement officer, from the local to the federal level, arrived on the scene. He also asked McCraw for clarification on who was in “operational control at every step of the law enforcement response in Uvalde.”
“To date, they have been met with lies, misstatements, and shifts of blame. The State of Texas failed these families, and those families deserve to know the complete, unalterable truth about what happened that day. This is a suit to demand just that,” said Gutierrez.
You can follow updates on what comes out of that hearing on KXAN.