An exterior door at Robb Elementary School did not lock when it was closed by a teacher shortly before a gunman used it to get inside and kill 19 students and two teachers, leaving investigators searching to determine why, state police said Tuesday.
State police initially said a teacher had propped the door open shortly before the gunman entered the school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
They have now determined that the teacher, who has not been identified, propped the door open with a rock, but then removed the rock and closed the door when she realized there was a shooter on campus, said Travis Considine, chief communications officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. But, Considine said, the door that was designed to lock when shut did not lock.
“We did verify she closed the door. The door did not lock. We know that much and now investigators are looking into why it did not lock,” Considine said.
Investigators confirmed the detail through additional video footage reviewed since Friday’s news conference when authorities first said that the door had been left propped open. Authorities did not state at that time what had been used to prop open the door.
Considine said the teacher initially propped the door open but ran back inside to get her phone and call 911 when the gunman crashed his truck on campus.
“She came back out while on her phone, she heard someone yell, ‘He has a gun!’, she saw him jump the fence and that he had a gun, so she ran back inside,” removing the rock when she did, Considine said.
Steve McCraw, the head of DPS, hadn’t said why the teacher initially propped open the door when it was first detailed Friday. The first mention of a door left propped open, which officials now say didn’t happen, led to questions about the teacher’s actions and whether she had made a horrific mistake.
Since the shooting, law enforcement and state officials have struggled to present an accurate timeline and details of the event and how police responded, sometimes providing conflicting information or withdrawing some statements hours later. State police have said some accounts were preliminary and may change as more witnesses are interviewed.
San Antonio attorney Don Flanary told the San Antonio Express-News that the Robb Elementary School employee, whom he’s not naming, first propped open the door to carry food from a car to a classroom, and that she immediately moved to close it when she realized the danger.
“She kicked the rock away when she went back in. She remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting,” Flanary told the newspaper.
“She thought the door would lock because that door is always supposed to be locked,” Flanary said.
Flanary did not immediately return telephone messages left at his office from The Associated Press.
Investigators are also still trying to interview Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who state police have said was the commander of the school shooting scene while it happened. Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said Arredondo treated the active scene as a hostage situation and as if children were no longer at risk, while 19 police officers waited in the school hallway outside the classroom where the gunman was.
McCraw called that the “wrong decision,” saying the focus of the investigation has shifted to Arredondo and the police response.
Other officers in the Uvalde city and schools police departments continue to sit for interviews and provide statements, but Arredondo has not responded to DPS requests for two days, Considine said.
Later Tuesday, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which represents police officers, urged its member officers to cooperate with “all government investigations” into the shooting and police response and endorsed a federal probe already announced by the Justice Department.
The organization was also sharply critical of the constantly changing narrative of events that has emerged so far.
“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,” CLEAT said. “Sources that Texans once saw as iron-clad and completely reliable have now been proven false.”