Frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman's rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed.
“Go in there! Go in there!” nearby women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, Juan Carranza, 24, told the Associated Press. He says he saw the scene from outside his house, across the street from Robb Elementary School in the close-knit town of Uvalde. Carranza said the officers did not go in.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building.
Uvalde School Shooting Coverage:
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said, in words he later confirmed to NBC News. “More could have been done.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told reporters that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when the shooter opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him, though a department spokesman said later that they could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman was in the school or when he was killed.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there," McCraw said. “They did engage immediately. They did contain him in the classroom.”
Uvalde City Councilman Everardo Zamora said on NBC's "TODAY" show that it's a "misconception" that officers weren't going inside the school. He said police "were already in there" and the law enforcement officers outside were trying to "control the people from going in there."
"That’s why you saw, you know, the police pushing the people back, because we don’t want them going in there,” Zamora added.
Minutes before the gunman entered the building, Carranza had watched as the gunman crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a nearby funeral home who ran away uninjured.
Officials say he “encountered" a school district security officer outside the school, though there were conflicting reports from authorities on whether the men exchanged gunfire. After running inside, he fired on two arriving Uvalde police officers who were outside the building, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine. The police officers were injured.
He “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.”
Law enforcement officers, including local police and a tactical team from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, arrived and had trouble breaching the classroom door. They finally got the door open when the principal produced a master key, state and federal law enforcement officials told NBC News.
It's unclear why officers couldn't break down the door or how much time it took before they got inside the classroom.
Still, Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner.
“There were more of them. There was just one of him,” he said.
Uvalde is a largely Latino town of some 16,000 people about 75 miles from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grades, is a single-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
Before attacking the school, the shooter shot and wounded his grandmother at the home they shared, authorities said.
Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was puttering in his yard when he heard the shots.
The gunman ran out the front door and across the small yard to the truck parked in front of the house. He seemed panicked, Gallegos said, and had trouble getting the truck out of park.
Then he raced away: “He spun out, I mean fast,” spraying gravel in the air.
His grandmother emerged covered in blood: “She says, ‘Berto, this is what he did. He shot me.’” She was hospitalized.
Gallegos, whose wife called 911, said he had heard no arguments before or after the shots, and knew of no history of bullying or abuse of the gunman, who he rarely saw.
Investigators also shed no light on a motive for the attack, which also left at least 17 people wounded. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter, a resident of the small town about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
“We don’t see a motive or catalyst right now,” said McCraw of the Department of Public Safety.
The 18-year-old legally bought the rifle and a second one like it last week, just after his birthday, authorities said.
This is a live update. Click here for complete coverage of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.