THE elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers last month will be demolished, the city’s mayor said, as lawmakers in Washington cleared the way for limited but significant gun reforms.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced the decision to knock down Robb Elementary school at a council meeting, saying: “You can never ask a child to go back or teacher to go back in that school ever.”
In a separate state Senate hearing into the May 24 shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) director Steven McCraw said the onsite commander made “terrible decisions” and the law-enforcement response was “an abject failure” in which a commander put the lives of officers over those of the children.
One delay Mr McCraw discussed was the search for a key to the classroom where the shooting occurred. He noted that the door was not locked and there was no evidence officers tried to see if it was secured while others searched for a key.
He also said officers could have taken down the shooter within three minutes of him entering the building.
“There was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour to isolate, distract and neutralise the subject,” Mr McCraw said.
Instead, the gunman was in the school for more than an hour, slaughtering children in their classrooms while police were waiting in the hallway.
“The officers had weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armour, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes, and eight seconds – that is how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued,” the DPS director said.
Mr McCraw said the scene commander, Uvalde schools police chief Pete Arredondo, “waited for radio and rifles, and he waited for shields and he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed”.
Mr Arredondo did not address either of the two hearings on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Mr Arredondo said he never considered himself incident commander at the scene of the shooting, and that he did not order police to hold back on breaching the building.
At the city council meeting on Tuesday night, Mr McLaughlin accused Mr McCraw of deflecting blame away from state police enforcement.
“Every briefing, he leaves out the number of his own officers and rangers that were on scene that day,” the mayor said. “Colonel McCraw has an agenda – and it’s not to present a full report on what happened and to give factual answers to the families of this community.”
In Washington, a group of senators has reached agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill, potentially teeing up final passage by week’s end on an incremental but landmark package of reforms.
Lawmakers released the 80-page bill, which would mark the first major firearms curbs in 29 years if it passes. It cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents in voting yes. Passage by the Democratic-led House could follow quickly.
The legislation would toughen background checks for the youngest firearms buyers, require more sellers to conduct background checks, and beef up penalties on gun traffickers. It would also disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.
It would not, however, raise the minimum age for people to buy an assault-style weapon to 21. The Buffalo shooter, who killed 10 people in a racist attack at a supermarket last month, and the Uvalde shooter, were both 18 and had purchased the weapons legally.
Telegraph Media Group Limited