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Texas police face scrutiny over ‘late’ massacre response

UVALDE — Texas police faced angry questions Thursday over why it took an hour to neutralise the gunman who murdered 19 small children and two teachers in Uvalde, as video emerged of desperate parents begging officers to storm the school.

In one jolty, nearly seven-minute clip posted on YouTube, parents living a nightmare — a school shooting under way with their kids inside — are seen screaming expletives at police trying to keep them away from Robb Elementary School.

“It’s my daughter!” one woman bellows amid chaotic scenes of crying and shoving.

Angeli Rose Gomez, whose children were inside, told The Wall Street Journal she was handcuffed by federal marshals after she and others pushed police to intervene.

In another shorter video, parents at what is apparently the rear of the building complain angrily that police are doing nothing as the country’s worst school shooting in a decade is unfolding.

One woman, frantic about her son, yells to police, “if they’ve got a shot, shoot him or something. Go on.”

Jacinto Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn died on Tuesday, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting.

“There was at least 40 lawmen armed to the teeth but didn’t do a darn thing (until) it was far too late,” Cazares told ABC News Wednesday.

“The situation could’ve been over quick if they had better tactical training.”

Daniel Myers and his wife Matilda — both local pastors — told AFP they saw parents at the scene growing frantic as police seemed to wait on reinforcements before entering the school.

“Parents were desperate,” said Daniel Myers, 72. “One family member, he says: ‘I was in the military, just give me a gun, I’ll go in. I’m not going to hesitate. I’ll go in.’”

‘Approximately an hour’

The tight-knit Latino community was changed forever when Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old with a history of being bullied, entered the school and gunned down students and teachers with an assault rifle.

Relatives said the husband of one of the teachers killed died Thursday from a medical emergency — caused by grief over the loss of his wife. The couple had four children.

Facing rapid-fire questioning by journalists on the police response, Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said investigators were still working to piece together exactly what happened.

After shooting his own grandmother, Escalon said Ramos crashed her vehicle near the school, fired on bystanders, then entered through a door that was apparently unlocked.

Officers went in minutes later, but were held back by gunfire and called for backup. A tactical team including US Border Patrol agents entered and killed the gunman “approximately an hour later.”

In the interim, officers evacuated students and teachers and unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the gunman, who held them back with rifle fire, Escalon said.

He also refuted earlier accounts that the gunman was confronted by a school resource officer, and said there was no armed officer on site when the attack began.

Uvalde’s police chief, Daniel Rodriguez, also addressed the controversy over the response time, saying: “Officers responded within minutes.”

“I understand questions are surfacing regarding the details of what occurred. I know the answers will not come fast enough during this trying time,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

‘I have no words’

Speaking out for the first time, Ramos’ mother Adriana Reyes told ABC News her son could be aggressive when angry but was “not a monster” — and that she was not aware he had been buying weapons.

“I had an uneasy feeling sometimes, like ‘what are you up to?’” she told ABC Wednesday evening. “We all have a rage, that some people have it more than others.”

“Those kids… I have no words,” Reyes said through tears. “I don’t know what to say about those poor kids.”

The Uvalde shooting was the deadliest since 20 elementary-age children and six staff were killed at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

‘Common sense’

Gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, which made the assault rifle used in Uvalde, told AFP it will not attend the convention of the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby this weekend in Houston, in light of the “horrifying tragedy.”

“We believe this week is not the appropriate time to be promoting our products in Texas at the NRA meeting,” said the company, which said its gun had been “criminally misused” in the attack.

Pressed on how Ramos was able to obtain the murder weapon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has brushed aside calls for tougher gun laws in his state — where attachment to the right to bear arms runs deep.

But in the shooting’s wake President Joe Biden — who will head to Uvalde on Sunday with First Lady Jill Biden — has called on lawmakers to take on the gun lobby and enact “common sense gun reforms.”

Gun control activists and lawmakers gathered outside the US Capitol Thursday, vowing no let-up in their efforts in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

“Gun violence prevention is going to be on the ballot,” said the Democratic senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal.

The March for Our Lives — founded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida — has meanwhile called for nationwide protests on June 11 to press for gun control.— AFP

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