UVALDE, Texas (KXAN) — New questions, and concerns, were raised Friday about a possible breakdown in communication between 911 and the officers on the ground during the Uvalde shooting on Tuesday that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Despite the presence of more than a dozen officers in the hallway, at a news conference, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said none tried to breach the classroom door where the shooter was for almost an hour.
“Of course this was not the right decision,” said McCraw. “It was the wrong decision. Period.”
The decision to not enter the classroom, despite lessons learned from Columbine High School, is a concern because, according to McCraw, sporadic gun shots were heard and children were actively calling 911 from inside the school pleading for help at the time. During one of those 911 calls, at 12:50 p.m., gunshots were heard, he said.
“It was believed at the time the subject was stationary, barricaded,” said McCraw, who said officers on the ground believed “there was no risk to other children.”
To find out where the break down might have occurred, KXAN turned to a former 911 dispatcher with a decade of experience. Anita, who did not want to give her last name or show her face, lives 15 miles from Uvalde. She used to work for the Crystal City Police Department — about 40 miles south of Uvalde — as a 911 operator.
“Everybody’s life is in your hands,” she said. “When you’re behind the desk, everybody’s life is in your hands.”
Based on her experience, she believes “somebody failed.” The former dispatcher said in the high-pressure job, seconds count. When information comes in, like an active shooter, that is supposed to immediately be relayed to the officers on the ground through both police radio and computer messages.
“You’re relaying it out on the radio while you’re typing,” said Anita, who described having to constantly multitask.
It’s unclear what information officers in Uvalde actually received or if they were aware of the 911 calls that were coming in.
“So, it would assume either the [911 operator’s] notes weren’t typed out or relayed?” asked KXAN investigative reporter Matt Grant. “Or, they were, and they were missed [by officers on the ground]?”
“Exactly,” Anita responded. “It’s either or.”
McCraw said he didn’t know what information the incident commander on the scene had received from 911 at the time of the shooting.
“That question will be answered,” said McCraw. “But, I’m not going to share that information right now.”
At least two children called 911 from inside the school and survived, he said.