Timeline: New details about the Uvalde school massacre keep contradicting what authorities have said

Since 19 children and two teachers were massacred in Uvalde, Texas, authorities have repeatedly changed their story on what happened before, during and after the bloody siege in two adjoining classrooms.

Now, newly released transcripts and evidence further dispute what some officials originally said about the May 24 slaughter at Robb Elementary School — the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.

“There's compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we've learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre," Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw told a state senate committee June 21.

But Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin slammed McCraw and DPS, saying the state agency investigating the massacre hadn’t briefed him nor other city officials about the investigation almost a month later.

While officials bicker, mourners are tormented by the horror of knowing victims were trapped with a gunman for more than an hour — despite repeated 911 calls for help from inside the classrooms.

Here are some of the key details that have changed since the deadly rampage:

  • Gunman outside school

  • Gunman entering school

  • Posting
    online

  • Time to
    stop shooter

  • Authorities entering classroom

  • Police chief cooperation

Who was in charge of the police response?

Then The Uvalde school district police chief was in charge

The incident commander at the scene was the Uvalde school district police chief, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw said on May 27. While McCraw did not identify the chief by name, the school district’s police chief is Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who leads a police force of six officers.

But several law enforcement agencies rushed to the scene. By 12:03 p.m., as many as 19 officers were in a hallway outside the classrooms, McCraw said.

McCraw said the incident commander chose not to immediately breach the classroom where children were trapped with the gunman, saying the chief “was convinced at that time that there was no more threat to the children, and that the subject was barricaded.”

McCraw said the incident commander believed “that they had time to organize, with the proper equipment, to go in.”

Officers at the scene were aware that injured people were trapped inside classrooms before authorities decided to breach the entrance to the classrooms, according to a New York Times review of investigative documents and videos from law enforcement.

Around 12:30 p.m. — about an hour after the gunman started shooting — Arredondo said, "We're ready to breach, but that door is locked," the Times reported, citing a transcript.

Eventually, around 12:50 p.m., a team including Border Patrol tactical agents used keys from a janitor to enter the classroom where the gunman was holed up, killing the shooter, McCraw said.

Now The school police chief said he didn’t think he was in charge and didn't bring his police radio

Arredondo didn’t consider himself the incident commander, the chief told The Texas Tribune in an article published June 9.

Arredondo "assumed that some other officer or official had taken control of the larger response," the Tribune wrote. "He took on the role of a front-line responder."

"I didn't issue any orders," Arredondo told the Tribune — though the outlet reported the chief did instruct officers to break the outside windows of other classrooms and start evacuating students.

Arredondo also told the Tribune he left his police radio and campus radio outside the school because he thought carrying both would slow him down, and he wanted both hands free in case he encountered the gunman and needed to shoot. Arredondo said one radio had a whip-like antenna that would hit him as he ran, and another had a clip that he thought would cause the radio to fall off his belt during a long run.

In a text message to CNN on June 10, Arredondo's attorney George E. Hyde said he and his client weren’t granting any more interviews for the foreseeable future. “My client needs some time as this has been very difficult for him,” Hyde wrote.

Were the doors to the classrooms locked?

Then The school district police chief said the doors were locked and reinforced

On May 27, authorities said the killer had barricaded himself behind the locked doors of the adjoining classrooms — preventing outgunned police officers from stopping him for about 75 minutes.

In an article published June 9, Arredondo told The Texas Tribune that the classroom doors were locked and reinforced with a steel jamb, hindering any potential response or rescue. Eventually, Arredondo said, police found a working key and were able to unlock the door.

Now ‘The door was unsecured’

The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, McCraw said June 21 at a Texas State Senate hearing.

Still, it took more than 70 minutes after police arrived for law enforcement to enter through the door and kill the gunman.

"While they waited, the on-scene commander waited for a radio and rifles," McCraw said, referring to Arredondo. "Then he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed.”

Arredondo told Texas Tribune on June 9 that he didn't think he was the incident commander that day.

Did the first officers on scene have enough firepower to take down the gunman?

Then ‘We don’t have enough firepower right now. It’s all pistol’

On the day of the shooting, the school district police chief said responding officers needed more firepower and equipment to breach the classroom door.

At 11:40 a.m. — several minutes after the first officers arrived on scene — Arredondo called the Uvalde Police Department's dispatch by phone. The call came shortly after the gunman fired at officers.

"We don't have enough firepower right now. It's all pistol, and he has an AR-15," Arredondo said, according to a DPS transcript.

Now Some of the first officers had rifles and body armor

Three minutes after the gunman entered the school, “there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject," DPS director McCraw said on June 21.

Two of the first officers to arrive were not limited to pistols and actually had rifles, McCraw added.

"The officers had weapons; the children had none,” he said. “The officers had body armor; the children had none.”

Did officers try to stop the shooter within an hour of police arrival?

Then Arredondo said he was struggling to find the right key to open the door

The school district police chief said he used dozens of keys to try to open a door leading to the gunman, but none of them worked.

“I was praying one of them was going to open up the door each time I tried a key,” Arredondo told The Texas Tribune in an article published June 9.

Eventually, other officers called Arredondo’s cell phone and told him they had gotten a key that could open the door, the Tribune reported. A group of officers from various agencies — including tactical agents from US Border Patrol — entered the classroom and killed the gunman.

Now No one touched the door handle to see if it would open, the DPS chief says

Video evidence reviewed by Texas DPS showed that for more than an hour, no one touched the door handle to check whether it was locked, the DPS director said June 21 at a Texas State Senate hearing.

McCraw said the officers who breached the classroom told investigators they also didn’t try the door handle before entering.

He noted that officers in the hallway who were not in charge wanted to stop the shooter immediately.

"The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said.

Did the killer post his plans online?

Then He posted messages on Facebook

On May 25, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters the gunman shared his plans on Facebook about 30 minutes before the massacre started.

Abbott said the gunman wrote the following three messages and described them as posts:

“I'm going to shoot my grandmother."

"I shot my grandmother.”

"I'm going to shoot an elementary school.”

Now He sent private messages, not Facebook posts

Shortly after Abbott’s comments, a spokesperson for Meta — the parent company of Facebook — said the messages were “private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred,” and were not public Facebook posts.

On May 27, DPS Director McCraw told reporters he wanted to “correct something that was said early on in the investigation — that he (the gunman) posted on Facebook, publicly, that he was going to shoot his grandmother, and secondly after that that he had shot her, and the third that he was going to go shoot up a school. That did not happen.”

Hours later, Abbott said he was “livid” that he was given wrong information before speaking at the May 25 news conference.

“I wrote down hand notes in detail about what everybody in that room told me in sequential order about what happened. And when I came out here on this stage and told the public what happened, it was a recitation of what people in that room told me — whether it be law enforcement officials or non-law enforcement officials,” Abbott said.

“And as everybody has learned, the information that I was given turned out in part to be inaccurate. And I am absolutely livid about that.”

Did the gunman encounter anyone outside the school?

From Facebook

Then He “engaged” with a school police officer

Authorities initially said that after the gunman shot his grandmother and crashed a truck in a ditch near Robb Elementary School, a school resource officer encountered the suspect and “engaged” him before he entered the school.

“Unfortunately, he was able to enter the premises, and then from there that’s when he entered several classrooms and started shooting his firearm,” Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Erick Estrada said on May 24.

Now He “walked in unobstructed”

One day after the shooting, Texas DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon said that when the gunman reached the school, he “walked in unobstructed initially.”

"So from the grandmother's house, to the (ditch), to the school, into the school, he was not confronted by anybody,” Escalon said.

On May 27, Texas DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw said no school resource officer was at Robb Elementary when the gunman arrived on the campus.

“The (Uvalde) Consolidated Independent School District has six officers, and they didn’t have one posted at that location,” McCraw said.

He also said no school resource officer confronted the gunman before he entered the school — though “it was certainly stated in preliminary interviews.” He said a school district police officer did hear a 911 call about a man with a gun. The officer drove to Robb Elementary and sped to the back of the school to a person he thought was the suspect. But that person turned out to be a teacher.

“In doing so, (the school resource officer) drove right by the suspect, who was hunkered down behind a vehicle, where he began shooting at the school” before entering, McCraw said.

How did the gunman enter the school?

Then He entered a door propped open by a teacher

On the morning of the shooting, a teacher left a door to the school propped open, McCraw said on May 27.

“That back door was propped open. It wasn’t supposed to be propped open; it was supposed to be locked,” McCraw said three days after the shooting. “So that was an access point that the subject used.”

Now The teacher closed the door, but it didn't lock

On May 31, Texas DPS spokesperson Travis Considine told The Associated Press that a teacher propped the door open, but then closed it once she realized a shooter was on campus. But the door did not lock.

A DPS press secretary confirmed to CNN that the AP report was accurate.

How long did it take for law enforcement to kill the shooter?

Pete Luna/Uvalde Leader-News

Then Less than an hour

On Wednesday, May 25, Texas DPS Director McCraw told CNN the shooter was on school grounds for up to an hour before law enforcement entered the classroom he was in and killed him.

“It's going to be within, like 40 minutes or something, [within] an hour,” he told CNN.

Now More than an hour

On May 27, McCraw said the shooter was on school grounds for over an hour.

McCraw said the gunman entered the school at 11:33 a.m. and was shot and killed by a Border Patrol tactical unit at 12:50 p.m.

In total, about 75 minutes had passed between the time the first law enforcement officers arrived at the school at when Border Patrol tactical agents breached the classroom and killed the shooter.

While the gunman remained in the classroom, parents waited outside the school in mounting frustration, urging law enforcement to take greater action.

Inside the classroom, terrified students called 911 to plead for help while as many as 19 officers stood in the hallway outside the classroom.

Why didn’t police enter the classroom sooner?

Then The suspect was “pinned down”

In a news conference on May 25, Texas DPS Director McCraw says that officers engaged Ramos while he was in the classroom, and “continued to keep him pinned down in that location” while a tactical team could be assembled to breach the classroom, implying that the decision to keep Ramos confined to one classroom was a strategic tactic.

He later said that the responding officers “saved other kids” by choosing to keep the shooter “pinned down.”

But in an interview with CNN, Lt. Chris Olivarez, another DPS spokesperson, contradicted those statements. He told CNN that officers were at a “disadvantage because the gunman was able to make entry into a classroom [and] barricade himself inside that classroom.”

Now It was “the wrong decision”

On May 27, McCraw said the classroom was not immediately breached because the incident commander thought the scene was a “barricaded subject situation,” not an active shooter situation. He said the incident commander — the Uvalde school district police chief — believed “there was time to retrieve the keys and wait for a tactical team with the equipment to go ahead and breach the door and take on the subject.”

McCraw criticized the decision to not breach the classroom sooner. “From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision,” he added. “It was the wrong decision, period. There's no excuse for that.”

The tactical team eventually entered the room using keys from a janitor.

Is the school district police chief cooperating with state investigators?

Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network

Then Police chief didn't respond to interview request with the DPS

Arredondo — the incident commander in charge of the law enforcement response during the massacre — did not respond to a request for a follow-up interview, Texas DPS spokesperson Travis Considine told CNN on May 31.

The follow-up interview would be with the Texas Rangers, an investigative branch of the DPS.

Now Arredondo says he's in touch with authorities

I am in contact with DPS every day,” Arredondo told CNN on June 1.

The police chief declined to provide additional information, citing the ongoing funerals for the victims.

“We’re going to be respectful to the (families),” Arredondo said. “Whenever this is done and the families quit grieving, then we’ll do that, obviously.”

Weeks after the massacre, many questions remain unanswered.

It’s not clear how many of the 21 victims who died may have survived had police entered the classroom sooner.

The Texas Rangers, part of the Texas DPS, are now investigating the massacre and the law enforcement response. The US Justice Department said it is also reviewing the law enforcement response to the deadly rampage.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the review aims "to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events.”