By\u00a0Terri Langford\r\nThe officers in the hallway of Robb Elementary wanted to get inside classrooms 111 and 112 \u2014 immediately. One officer\u2019s daughter was inside. Another officer had\u00a0gotten a call\u00a0from his wife, a teacher, who told him she was bleeding to death.\r\nTwo closed doors and a wall stood between them and an 18-year-old with an AR-15 who had opened fire on children and teachers inside the connected classrooms. A Halligan bar \u2014 an ax-like forcible-entry tool used by firefighters to get through locked doors \u2014 was available. Ballistic shields were arriving on the scene. So was plenty of firepower, including at least two rifles. Some officers were itching to move.\r\nOne such officer, a special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety, had arrived around 20 minutes after the shooting started. He immediately asked: Are there still kids in the classrooms?\r\n\u201cIf there is, then they just need to go in,\u201d the agent said.\r\nAnother officer answered, \u201cIt is unknown at this time.\u201d\r\nThe agent shot back, \u201cY\u2019all don\u2019t know if there\u2019s kids in there?\u201d He added, \u201cIf there\u2019s kids in there we need to go in there.\u201d\r\n\u201cWhoever is in charge will determine that,\u201d came the reply.\r\nThe inaction appeared too much for the special agent. He noted that there were still children in other classrooms within the school who needed to be evacuated.\r\n\u201cWell, there\u2019s kids over\u00a0here,\u201d he said. \u201cSo I\u2019m getting kids out.\u201d\r\nThe exchange happened early in the excruciating 77 minutes on May 24 that started when Salvador Ramos, who had just shot his grandmother in the face, walked through an unlocked door of Robb Elementary, encountering no interference as he wielded an AR-15 he had bought eight days earlier.\r\nAt the end of those 77 minutes, 19 students, including the daughter of one of the officers stationed in the hallway, and two teachers were dead or dying. Others sustained serious physical injuries; the emotional and psychological ones will last for life. It was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.\r\nBut during most of those 77 minutes, despite the urgent pleas from officers and parents amassed outside, officers stayed put outside rooms 111 and 112, stationed on either end of a wide hallway with sky blue and green walls and bulletin boards displaying children\u2019s artwork. Ramos fired at least four sets of rounds \u2014 including the initial spray of fire that likely killed many of his victims instantaneously.\r\nAfter the special agent\u2019s comment, nearly another hour passed before a tactical team from the Border Patrol breached the classroom doors and killed the gunman.\r\nIn the weeks since the tragedy in Uvalde, questions have swirled around the actions of police and whether some lives could have been saved if officers confronted the barricaded gunman sooner. Authorities have shared conflicting information about who was in charge, who confronted the shooter and when. A debate over whether the locked classroom doors could be breached gave way to the discovery that they may never have been locked at all.\r\nRevelations have trickled out in the press: The New York Times has described\u00a0officers\u2019 doubts\u00a0about the decision to wait;\u00a0breakdowns in communications and tactics; and the fact that officers held off from the confrontation\u00a0even though they knew\u00a0people were injured, and possibly dying, inside. The San Antonio Express-News reported that\u00a0there is no evidence that officers tried the doors\u00a0on rooms 111 and 112 \u2014 contradicting a key assertion by the Uvalde schools police chief, Pete Arredondo, who\u00a0told The Texas Tribune\u00a0that officers tried the doors, found them locked and had to wait for a master key to unlock them. On Monday evening, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV revealed that the officers, in effect,\u00a0had more than enough firepower, equipment and motivation\u00a0to breach the classrooms.\r\nMeanwhile, at least three investigations \u2014 by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Texas Legislature, and the local district attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee \u2014 are reviewing records and interviewing witnesses to evaluate the law enforcement response.\r\nPublic understanding of the response to the tragedy has been marred by refusals by state and local agencies to release public records, efforts by local officials to\u00a0bar journalists\u00a0from public meetings, and the\u00a0closed-door nature\u00a0of the hearings held by state lawmakers. The secrecy has already prompted Texas Monthly to ask,\u00a0\u201cWill We Ever Know the Truth About Uvalde?\u201d\r\nFor this article, the Tribune reviewed a timeline of events compiled by law enforcement, plus surveillance footage and transcripts of radio traffic and phone calls from the day of the shooting. The details were confirmed by a senior official at the Department of Public Safety.\r\nThe investigation is still in the early stages, and the understanding of what happened could still change as video records are synched and enhanced. But current records and footage show a well-equipped group of local officers entered the school almost immediately that day and then pulled back once the shooter began firing from inside the classroom. Then they waited for more than an hour to reengage.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cThey had the tools,\u201d said Terry Nichols, a former Seguin police chief and active-shooter expert. \u201cTactically, there\u2019s lots of different ways you could tackle this. \u2026 But it takes someone in charge, in front, making and executing decisions, and that simply did not happen.\u201d\r\nHere are some key findings from these records and materials:\r\n\r\n\tNo security footage from inside the school showed police officers attempting to open the doors to classrooms 111 and 112, which were connected by an adjoining door. Arredondo told the Tribune that he tried to open one door and another group of officers tried to open another, but that the door was reinforced and impenetrable. Those attempts were not caught in the footage reviewed by the Tribune. Some law enforcement officials are skeptical that the doors were ever locked.\r\n\r\n\r\n\tWithin the first minutes of the law enforcement response, an officer said the Halligan (a firefighting tool that is also sometimes spelled hooligan) was on site. It wasn\u2019t brought into the school until an hour after the first officers entered the building. Authorities didn\u2019t use it and instead waited for keys.\r\n\r\n\r\n\tOfficers had access to four ballistic shields inside the school during the standoff with the gunman, according to a law enforcement transcript. The first arrived 58 minutes before officers stormed the classrooms. The last arrived 30 minutes before.\r\n\r\n\r\n\tMultiple Department of Public Safety officers \u2014 up to eight, at one point \u2014 entered the building at various times while the shooter was holed up. Many quickly left to pursue other duties, including evacuating children, after seeing the number of officers already there. At least one of the officers expressed confusion and frustration about why the officers weren\u2019t breaching the classroom but was told that no order to do so had been given.\r\n\r\n\r\n\tAt least some officers on the scene seemed to believe that Arredondo was in charge inside the school, and at times Arredondo seemed to be issuing orders such as directing officers to evacuate students from other classrooms. That contradicts Arredondo\u2019s assertion that he did not believe he was running the law enforcement response. Arredondo\u2019s lawyer, George E. Hyde, said the chief will not elaborate on his interview with the Tribune, given the ongoing investigation.\r\n\r\nWhat the camera saw\r\nMost of the video from inside the school is captured by a wide-angle camera positioned inside the school building\u2019s northwest entrance, the same one the gunman used. The camera looks straight south from its north ceiling perch and offers a slight view of the entrances to classrooms 111 and 112 to the left.\r\nThe Tribune also reviewed transcripts of radio traffic and body camera footage.\r\nThey show that the gunman arrived on campus at 11:28 a.m. He appears to have been planning a shooting for a while. In October, according to the law enforcement timeline, he withdrew from Uvalde High School. A month later, when he was still 17, he purchased some gun accessories online, including rifle slings and a military carrier vest. He began buying his ammunition in April and purchased his gun on his 18th birthday in May. On May 14, he posted an ominous message on Instagram: \u201c10 more days.\u201d\r\nAt 11:33 a.m. on May 24, he walked into Robb Elementary\u2019s northwest entrance and headed south toward the two classrooms on the left side, randomly firing shots from his rifle in the hallway. He had crashed his car and fired some shots outside, so the school was already on lockdown at that point and the hallways were nearly empty.\r\nNo one was hit, but a boy could be seen peeking around the corner at the northeast end of the hallway, apparently trying to return to class from a nearby bathroom. The boy heard the gunfire and ran away. (DPS confirmed that he escaped without physical injury.)\r\nWithin a minute, the shooter entered classroom 111 \u2014 he didn\u2019t appear to encounter a locked door in the footage \u2014 and began shooting. He briefly walked out the classroom door and then went back in, shooting some more. For the next three minutes, he fired frequently inside a classroom filled with children.\r\nDuring that burst of gunfire, the first three officers entered the school: two from the Uvalde Police Department and one from the school district\u2019s force. All were carrying handguns.\r\nMoments later, Arredondo and seven more officers arrived. The shooter opened fire at the first three officers closest to the two classrooms, grazing two and forcing all the officers to bolt to either end of the hallway. Those officers, including Arredondo, remained in these positions for the rest of the standoff, never firing a shot.\r\nOfficers believed that the shooter was contained, and Arredondo called the Uvalde Police Department\u2019s dispatch on his cellphone. (The school police unit was created four years ago and does not report to the city police.) Seven minutes had passed since the shooter first entered the building.\r\n\u201cHey, hey, it\u2019s Arredondo. It\u2019s Arredondo. Can you hear me?\u201d said the 50-year-old veteran of law enforcement, who leads a department of six. \u201cNo, I have to tell you where we\u2019re at. It\u2019s an emergency right now. I\u2019m inside the building.\u201d\r\nSince the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, an evolving and increasingly detailed body of training on mass shootings instructs police to confront shooters as soon as possible \u2014 even at the risk of officers\u2019 lives.\r\nBy the time Arredondo called dispatch, at least 11 officers had entered the school and at least two are seen in the video carrying rifles. But Arredondo told the dispatcher that he didn\u2019t have the firepower to confront the lone gunman, according to a transcript reviewed by The Texas Tribune.\r\n\u201cOK, we have him in the room,\u201d he said, speaking on his cellphone. \u201cHe\u2019s got an AR-15. He\u2019s shot a lot. He\u2019s in the room. He hasn\u2019t come out yet. We\u2019re surrounded, but I don\u2019t have a radio.\u201d\r\nAfter the dispatcher confirmed the location of a SWAT team, Arredondo continued.\r\n\u201cYes and they need to be outside of this building prepared,\u201d he said. \u201cBecause we don\u2019t have enough firepower right now. It\u2019s all pistol and he has an AR-15. If you can get the SWAT team set up, by the funeral home, OK, we need \u2014 yes, I need some more firepower in here because we all have pistols and this guy\u2019s got a rifle. So I don\u2019t have a radio. I don\u2019t have a radio. If somebody can come in \u2014\u201d\r\nThe dispatcher asked Arredondo to stay on the line as long as he could. Arredondo agreed but said he\u2019d drop his phone when the gunman \u201ccomes out that door.\u201d Then the dispatcher shared the location of the shooter over a police radio and requested that a SWAT team be amassed by a funeral home across the street.\r\n\u201cSo, so I need you to bring a radio for me, and give me my radio for me,\u201d Arredondo said. \u201cI need to get one rifle. Hold on. I\u2019m trying to set him. I\u2019m trying to set him up.\u201d\r\nThen the call ended. Shooting started again inside the school within a minute of the start of the call. But police wouldn\u2019t breach the classroom where the gunman was barricaded for another hour and 10 minutes.\r\nAn agonizing wait\u00a0\u00a0\r\nOne minute after Arredondo\u2019s phone call, officers on the scene reported that the suspect was barricaded in a classroom. A dispatcher asked whether the door was locked, and an officer replied that they didn\u2019t know but that they had a Halligan available. No such tool was ever used. No one even brought one into the school for another 54 minutes.\r\nA standoff had begun. The gunman fired shots at least three more times \u2014 at 11:40 a.m., 11:44 a.m., and 12:21 p.m. \u2014 but officers held their positions. That was true even as more police filed in and four ballistic shields were carried into the building over the next 40 minutes.\r\nThe officers who entered the school at that time included DPS troopers who walked into the hallway before noon and then left after seeing how many officers were already there.\r\nThe special agent from DPS who urged officers to go into the classroom stayed for six minutes before leaving to clear other rooms, rescuing a student found hiding in a bathroom. More troopers arrived just minutes or seconds before the tactical team from the Border Patrol stormed the classroom, but did not participate in the breach.\r\nAnother officer who entered the hallway was Ruben Ruiz of the Uvalde city police. His wife, teacher Eva Mireles, had called him on his cellphone and told him she was bleeding heavily.\r\n\u201cShe says she is shot,\u201d he told the officers on the scene.\r\nThe video from inside the hallway doesn\u2019t capture what Ruiz did inside the school. But a DPS official told the Tribune that Ruiz was soon escorted away by other officers on the scene.\r\nBy 12:01 p.m., the DPS special agent had returned to the hallway and offered his urgent assessment: The situation required officers to go into the classrooms.\r\n\u201cIt sounds like a hostage rescue situation,\u201d the DPS officer said. \u201cSounds like a UC [undercover] rescue. They should probably go in.\u201d\r\nA police officer \u2014 it\u2019s not clear whether from the city or school district \u2014 then said, \u201cDon\u2019t you think we should have a supervisor approve that?\u201d\r\n\u201cHe\u2019s not my supervisor,\u201d the DPS agent countered before leaving the hallway to clear other rooms of children.\r\nThe painful wait continued. SWAT officers from the city police arrived on the scene at around 12:10 p.m., a little more than a half-hour after the shooter first entered the school. One minute later, Arredondo asked for a master key that would allow him to unlock classroom doors, according to the transcripts.\r\nIt took about six minutes for a set of keys to arrive, and the chief began testing them on a different classroom door. Soon after, more gunshots could be heard from inside the classrooms full of students.\r\nArredondo tried to speak with the shooter but didn\u2019t get a response. Uvalde\u2019s mayor, Don McLaughlin,\u00a0told The Washington Post\u00a0that a would-be negotiator, working from a nearby funeral home to which the mayor had rushed, also tried to reach the shooter, to no avail.\r\nAt 12:38 p.m., Arredondo tried to talk to the shooter. Hearing no reply, he indicated that the SWAT team could breach the classrooms if it was ready.\r\nBy then, a long-awaited working key had been found. Officers inserted it into the door of room 111, and a tactical unit from the Border Patrol stormed in. All that\u2019s audible from the video is a flurry of gunshots. The team then exited the room and indicated that the gunman was dead \u2014 77 minutes after the carnage started.\r\nAn aftermath of doubts and questions\u00a0\r\nWith the shooter killed, the excruciating aftermath began. The fisheye camera in the hallway captured a single first responder standing in the center of the hallway, his surgical-gloved hands motioning to others standing behind him to remain there until all the officers exited. Once he got that signal, he directed the team to move quickly inside rooms 111 and 112. Gurneys and ambulance backboards suddenly popped into view.\r\nThe first to reach the victims inside pulled motionless, bloodied children onto the hallway\u2019s linoleum flooring as they tried to assess their vital signs. None of the children appeared to make a sound. One child whose still body was placed on the floor had to be gently pushed to make room for others streaming in and out, his blood leaving a wide swath of crimson across the hallway floor.\r\nAlmost immediately, the questions about whether police did the right thing began. State officials offered contradicting information in the immediate aftermath. DPS Director Steve McCraw told reporters days later that it was the \u201cwrong decision\u201d not to breach the classroom sooner. He is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday morning.\r\nLaw enforcement experts say Arredondo was the rightful incident commander, though they were baffled why he abandoned his radios, declined to take charge, and lacked access to classrooms. J. Pete Blair, executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, dismissed the idea that the state police, being a far larger police agency, should have wrested command from Arredondo when they arrived on scene.\r\n\u201cThe person who should be in charge is the person who has the best picture of what\u2019s happening and also the skill set to manage what needs to happen,\u201d Blair said. He added, \u201cCommand exchanges are voluntary. They\u2019re not forced. [Someone] can\u2019t come in and say, \u2018I\u2019m taking it away from you.\u2019\u201d\r\nScrutiny has fallen most intensely on Arredondo. He defended his actions in an interview this month with the Tribune, but many of his claims are not supported by the records.\r\nHe said he didn\u2019t consider himself the incident commander that day and never issued orders to anyone during the shooting. Yet at 11:50 a.m., according to body-camera transcripts, an officer says, \u201cThe chief is in charge.\u201d\r\nArredondo said he intentionally left behind his radios, which he said were cumbersome and had a habit of not working well from inside the school, but he did ask for someone to bring them to him when he called police dispatch. He also requested a SWAT team, snipers and a door-breaching tool. (It\u2019s not clear if he\u2019d heard that a Halligan was available.) By noon, officers had rifles, a Halligan and at least one ballistic shield \u2014 yet made no attempt to enter the classrooms for 50 minutes.\r\nIn a statement on Thursday, Arredondo\u2019s lawyer, Hyde, told the Tribune: \u201cThe chief has requested that no further comment be made until all the information is collected and evaluated to minimize misinformation, which serves no one. I must honor that request. Further, the D.A. must present the police shooting in this matter to a grand jury, so there is also a criminal investigation underway, which he must respect.\u201d\r\nThe district attorney did not respond to a request for comment.\r\n\u201cAt this point it\u2019s clear that a multitude of errors in judgment combined to turn a bad situation into a catastrophe,\u201d said Katherine Schweit, a former FBI agent who co-authored the agency\u2019s foremost research on mass shootings. \u201cThe law enforcement rarely thinks their response is textbook, [but] I can\u2019t think of another incident in the United States where it appears so many missed opportunities occurred to get it right.\u201d\r\nBut law enforcement officers have particularly homed in on Arredondo\u2019s search for keys. It may never be known whether that insistence on obtaining a key was necessary as lives hung in the balance.\r\nThe classroom doors are supposed to lock automatically, but from the start, the shooter could be seen walking unobstructed into the room and then darting easily in and out at least three times. The footage caused some authorities who watched it to question whether the doors were ever locked.\r\nThrough his lawyer, Arredondo told the Tribune in a June 9 email that the doors were checked: \u201cMy memory is that the team on the north side of the hallway tried room on their side, which would be room 112 and I tried to open room 111 within minutes of arriving on the scene. We both took the sprayed gunfire through the walls.\u201d\r\nBut authorities have seen no video so far that confirms that.\r\nZach Despart contributed reporting. This story was originally published by the Texas Tribune.