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Official: It Was "Wrong Decision" Not To Break Classroom Door. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 27, 2022 - 12:30   ET



COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: I'm not defending anything. But you go back in the timeline, there was barrage, hundreds of rounds were pumped in in four minutes, OK, into those two classrooms than anything else, any firing afterwards was sporadic, and it was at the door. So the belief is that there may not be anybody living anymore, and that the subject is now trying to keep law enforcement at bay, or entice them to come in to suicide by content. I understand that. And I recorded that.



MCCRAW: Well, I might answer the first one, but the while on the second one, I don't have. Now the first one that each door can lock from the inside and we're both doors were locked, OK, from the inside. So the subject when he went in, he locked the door, he came out one time into the hallway. He went back in and locked the door because at the time that the officers went in, both doors were locked. They got a key from the janitor and used it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- inside the classroom in 12:03 and you breached it at 12:51. How many students died in those four units?

MCCRAW: I don't have that answer. We're looking at it right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't the school placed on lockdown? And two, while this may be the most uncommon question today, what is the going the response?

MCCRAW: Yes, thanks a lot. You know, how I'm doing, we're both parents. Those children, they forget about me or our officers and stuff like that. We've take an oath to uphold the law and protect people. And then anytime, something tragic like that, we want to know why it happened. And if we can do better next time, is the bottom line and call it like it is. It is tragic. Quite frankly, I mean, there shouldn't be anybody, you know, ideally would be able to commit for, you know, identify this guy as a suspect and address it before even thought about attacking, you know, on the 24th.



MCCRAW: And we're looking at other people, absolutely. Anybody who's been in contact, we're looking at anything, the links, associations, you know, people may that may have known something and we'll continue and may have been involved in some chat room gaming along with them. So there's nobody that we're not going to talk to and look at in a certain, I can assure you that the district attorney is very proactive and very concerned about this.

And that any evidence that we bring to her that someone was an accomplice or an enabler or didn't do what they should have done, if it's in violation of law and it makes these the probable cause standards, I have no doubt that she will take care of businesses like she did back in 2018 when we had two juveniles plot a capital murder as a school.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- 911 calls at 12:10, 12:13, 12:16, the shooter wasn't killed until 12:15, any of those 911 callers survived?

MCCRAW: Yes. You know, I can't tell you that was certainty but more than one survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many children --


MCCRAW: I'm sorry. What?


MCCRAW: Yes, the windows at the -- I'll go backwards and right over here, I'll move over here. Something shot into these windows, white gears even approaching the door, right? So the children were vulnerable all the time going through. We don't have any recording. Many of the children may be injured but not dead, when he shoot them in this particular area, right?

It has to answer and affirms that somebody could have shot opposite in that regard. So I would have the answer for that, quite frankly. So we're looking at the number of different things from the blisters and things like that, what you can do, just keep in mind you got children, OK, in here. We got your children over here.


And we're looking at is from a tactical standpoint and everything in terms of looking backwards, OK. And certainly, one of the things is, what was the access at 1:11 or 1:12 in that regard. And also, you know, there's other access points as well.


MCCRAW: Let me say one thing. Let me say one thing. Well, one thing, look, one thing I didn't point out, OK, is that when we got him going into these rooms, right here's a Jack and Jill restaurant between. So not unlike Santa Fe, these -- the classrooms are separated, but they're really connected. So you can move back and forth between those two classrooms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the incident commander receiving the information coming via the 911 call, and if so, why not? And if so, can you speak to the level of investigation that you're putting into that very question.

MCCRAW: Yes, well, we'll put that -- that question will be answered. But I don't have the -- I'm not going to share the information we have right now because I don't have the detailed interview right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the barricade situation that any police officers go in and get their own kids while the parents were outside?

MCCRAW: Not that I'm aware of, no.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many children called 911? And to know where exactly, did any of those children died?

MCCRAW: I know for two, for certain did and those two did not die.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- even after the incident was occurring, the shots being fired --

MCCRAW: If -- the bottom line is we've reported what happened is that backdoor was propped open, it wasn't supposed to be propped open. It's supposed to be locked. And certainly, the teacher that went back for her cell phone, it propped open again. So that was an access point that the subject used.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, go ahead blue. Go ahead. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in hindsight mistakes were made and Democratic congressman is now calling for the FBI to investigate the response here is going to be held accountable?

MCCRAW: Well, first of all, we welcome the FBI. And there's a reason why there's the FBI Special Agent charge behind me right now. They play a vital role. And again, this is about finding facts and reporting facts as quick as we can. It's not about trying to defend or it's not about trying to assess or even be hypercritical about the facts and sharing whatever we learn on the facts as quick as we can to be as transparent as we can. You know, OK, to media but more importantly, the parents and the public and the citizens of Uvalde.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on, hold on, sir, hold on.

MCCRAW: The chief, the chief of police, the consolidated independent school district is the incident commander. It's his school. He's the chief of police. OK. Again, that's -- I'm not going to discuss this point around. But there's an ongoing criminal investigation, ongoing criminal investigations.


MCCRAW: Again, you know, I'm not going to get into that.



MCCRAW: The chief of police, the consolidated independent school district. He was convinced. And again, I want to go back and say, you know, he was convinced at the time that the -- there's more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded, and that they had time to organize with the proper equipment to go in and somebody had already had hit, you know, three officers and hit two officers and there's like, I didn't answer the final question, a third Border Patrol agent was grazed as well but no one was -- no police officer was seriously injured.



MCCRAW: Yes. Yes, they did. He's shot. And I went through the timeline before where he continued to shoot that proves periodically sporadically.


MCCRAW: The last, yes, the last I think I already gave you the timeline and I went -- I'm sure I went through it. But the last time that the shot right before the entry, OK, was he shot at 12:21, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the officers or not at the children?

MCCRAW: No, at the children was -- until about, we don't know yet. We believe it was at the door is what he fired at.


(INAUDIBLE) [12:40:06]

MCCRAW: We know that at beginning one of the Bor Tech (ph) agents arrived they had three ballistic shields.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on.


MCCRAW: I don't know.


MCCRAW: Let's answer the question.


MCCRAW: Well, we've already that. First of all, hey, Texas embraces and teaches, OK, the active shooter doctrine, the active duty doctrine, as long as there's kids, and as long as there's someone's firing, you go to the gun, you find them, you neutralize them, period. And there's only, you know, there are some nuances with going transition to go barricade it subject. It also transitioning to a hostage situation. And of course, that the decision at the scene was that this is still a barricaded subject that did not go back to an active shooter situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, go ahead.

PROKUPECZ: Where is the police chief? And why isn't he here to take our questions?

MCCRAW: Well, because I'm here to address the latest timeline and facts that we know. Here's what, you're certainly welcome to reach out to them.

PROKUPECZ: I'd like to ask the FBI a question. I'd like to ask --

MCCRAW: I defer to --

PROKUPECZ: Can we have the FBI?

MCCRAW: Do you want a question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on. Hold on, sir, hold on.

PROKUPECZ: Sir, you've now been on the scene for several days. Two things, what exactly is your role in this investigation? And hearing all this and given that the FBI goes through lengthy efforts to study active shooter situations like this, do you think this is something that requires an independent investigation by whether a federal agency or by you guys or someone else?

OLIVER RICH, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you for the question. So my name is Oliver Rich. I'm the special agent charge in San Antonio Division.

First, I want to say, I understand there are a lot of questions and there's a lot of frustration in the public and our heart goes out to the families and the victims in this tragedy. I will say, our role here remains the same. We are here to assist in this investigation, to provide the support to the community to the best of our ability.

We've had 200 people here for over four days. We have people working all across the country to support this community and to support this investigation. We are continuing in that vein. We have victim specialists here working with people in the community, and we will continue to do that. If the facts bear out that there is a federal Nexus, then the FBI will conduct an appropriate investigation at that time.

But for now, we continue in this to support the Texas Rangers.

PROKUPECZ: -- of the police. Is that something you guys would investigate? OK, sir, are you going to ask more questions?

MCCRAW: Tell me more questions?

PROKUPECZ: Two more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy in the purple.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Uvalde Police Department (INAUDIBLE), the Uvalde Police Department posted in February 2020 that they familiarize themselves in this school and they did the training to do just what they're supposed to do. How come they're not in lead or their commanding officer was not in lead while they're familiarize with this training and they should have done when they were posting on Facebook they were doing, were dropped the ball?

MCCRAW: Yes, I don't have the answer that question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden will be here on Sunday, your thoughts on that? Do you have a message to the President?

MCCRAW: Welcome here. Welcome to Texas. And this community has been hit hard. And I think it's notable that the President is going to be here to recognize the pain and suffering that this community is going through and that's -- I think that's what leadership is. That's why Governor Abbott is here, that's while lieutenant -- you know, leaders go to where the problem is. And right now, the problem is in Uvalde, Texas. (CROSSTALK)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Seven words that will forever, forever haunt the community of Uvalde, Texas, of course, it was the wrong decision. Of course, it was the wrong decision. That from Corporal Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety right there in a 40-plus minute news conference in which he, to his credit, laid out the haunting timeline of what happened at the Robb Elementary School.

He said the shooter went in. He said that police followed him. And soon after, there were 911 calls including from young children inside the classroom saying there were kids alive, there were shots being fired. The local school district police chief was outside the door. He determined it was no longer an active-duty situation. He did not order his men to break through the door.


Of course, it was the wrong decision. Corporal McCraw going on to say it was the wrong decision, period. There's no excuse for that. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz live on the scene for us. Shimon, we have for a couple of days. One of the truth, one of the facts, one of the specific timeline. We just got it. And it is damning. It is haunting. And for 21 families, it is devastating.

PROKUPECZ: It is very devastating. And now you know why the police were hesitating and why they were sort of giving us the runaround, because now we have the facts and they're not good. They're not good for the police here. They're not good for anyone law enforcement. The decision to not go inside that classroom was a deadly decision.

Children were inside calling 911 saying, asking, asking, where are the police. And they were not there. They were outside in the hallway, or somewhere in the building. But they were not in there. That's what the director you hear of the DPS. And you know what credit to him, he finally came to the podium, and he finally took some questions. And he admitted that this was a screw up that they should have gone in.

That's why I was asking, John, who was in charge of this, who is in charge of this operation. And he told us it was the chief of police of the school police here. It's a very small Police Department. You're talking about four police officers, a detective, a chief of police, and a security guard. So now we have to start asking questions about the training, the security, why wasn't the resource officer here? He should have been here, according to the director here.

So a lot of mistakes, a lot of grave mistakes, a door was left open. The gunman was able to go inside that door. He was able to get inside the school. And of course, everyone is going to say what if. And for the parents, that is probably something that is on their minds now every second of the day, as they learn this information.

Presumably at the same time, we, the media, the public was learning of this terrible, terrible mistake, John?

KING: I want to walk through, and I apologize to any family members watching, I apologize any parents watching. I have a 10-year-old, that's my youngest. These pictures every day just kick me back. But I want to go through some of the timeline because the shooter, Shimon, Corporal McCraw said was in the building, 12:03, a one minute and 23 second phone call from room 112 talking about it. At 12:10 called back there are nine dead, eight or nine. At 12:16, a call back, there are eight or nine still alive.

Right there, if you stopped right there, if there was communication on the scene from the 911 to the officers on the scene, even if the commander believed, the chief believed that it transitioned away from an active shooter situation. Corporal McGraw laid it out plainly and clearly that would trigger going back into the active shooter right there.

Once you hear eight or nine still alive, it is the obligation is the protocol to line up in a stack and to storm that door. It did not happen. Then at 12:21, during a 911 call, they heard three more shots. At 12:36, another phone call. At 12:47, another phone call, please send the police now. And on that call, someone is saying they could hear the police next door.

So you have a horrific deadly judgment error by the chief of police. But there are also questions about, what about the real time communication between the phone center, the 911 calls and the police on the scene. Why was not that galactically bad judgment call reversed by the real time evidence they were getting that there were still shots being fired. There were children dead in that room, but there were still children alive.

PROKUPECZ: We don't know, John, we don't know why. If they had the capability to do that, they should. This is not uncommon in police departments all across the country. They're getting real time information in a situation where people are hiding from a gunman. That is critical information to law enforcement, in part because law enforcement when they go into a school when they go into a building, they know where to find people. They know that people are alive. That is critical information that clearly was not relayed to the officers on the scene.

And what this chief of police base this decision are that it would be better to wait that perhaps that people may have been already either dead. Clearly that was not the case because there were 911 calls being made by people inside saying, send the police. Where are the police? So that chief of police is not here so we couldn't ask him. You could see that the way things work here in Texas, my understanding is, the DPS kind of runs the show on these things, you can see. That's why I wanted to talk to the FBI because I want to know their feelings on this, and what are they going to do about this. They study these kinds of scenarios.


And this is going to be a case study for law enforcement all across the country. And they will all agree that this was a terrible decision by the chief of police not to go in. So now the question is, what happens next? Will there be accountability? Will someone be investigated for this? And obviously, how do you prevent this from happening again? And the decision of this chief is just unexplainable.

KING: And as you go through that, it is obviously the chief is the commanding officer in there. And that has to take precedence in a situation like this. But one of the things Corporal McCraw went through is that he was talking about there are officers outside who parents were obviously pleading with those officers. We've seen the video. We've talked to the parents. If you won't go in, give me your vest, let me go in, parents were pleading.

But the chief said there were 19 officers in the building. And again, words that will haunt the community, and especially those 21 families, plenty to do what needed to be done, in other words, 19 officers inside plenty to stack and go through that door if necessary. What I don't understand, and I don't think was answered, please tell me if I'm wrong about this is if there were 19 officers in the school and there were still shots being fired. How did they not hear it? How did they not know what -- let's assume they initially believed in a transition from an active shooter situation to a shooter barricaded in a room. And it was not the quote unquote, vital emergency to storm. How did they not hear that, 19 officers in a school shooter firing an AR-15 style rifle, how did they not hear that?

PROKUPECZ: That's a great question, John. And I'm sure they're heard it. You know, yesterday, the lieutenant here told us that they were taking cover. The officers were taking cover. You have children, people alive inside a room where there's gunshots. Officers are trained to go towards the gunfire. And if that means you have to take a bullet for someone that is your job.

And I think DPS here they had the Colonel here spoke about that. He said that is our job, right? We protect and serve. And that did not happen here, clearly. And he realizes that, and you could see the emotion in him when he was asked about how he was feeling. We don't really kind of understand what those officers, the 19 officers, and wouldn't it be great to hear from them, what they were feeling, what they were thinking when they were getting orders not to go in.

Was there anything else being said in those moments where officers were saying to go in? We know that an off-duty border patrol officer who is in his -- was getting a haircut at a local barber shop got a call from his wife who was inside. And she said, come get me, there's an active shooter. So that officer did that. He helped rescue people.

So look, John, right, there's still a lot of questions that needs to be answered, accountability that needs to go on here. And the bottom line is, cannot allow something like this to happen again. It's certainly with chiefs of police. This is a senior person making this decision at this scene and it was -- as the director here said, it was the wrong decision.

KING: The words, they are haunting. And I can't imagine how they feel, the family. Shimon Prokupecz was grateful for your reporting on the scene. Again, we're -- from where I'm sitting now, Corporal McCraw saying of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Colonel, I'm sorry. It was the wrong decision, period. There's no excuse for that. Let's get some perspective from two veterans of police work. The former FBI Supervisory, Special Agent Peter Licata joins us along with former acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Barksdale. Commissioner Barksdale to you first, to my question, again, respecting the initial decision by the school police -- the school district police chief who thought it didn't transition for an active shooter to a shooter barricaded in a room. You have 19 officers. The Colonel did say at one point, they thought some of the shots could have been just the shooter trying to entice them to come through the door so that he could have a suicide by encounter, if you will.

But there were the phone calls, what is the communication system? What is supposed to be the command and control and communication system in place when you know that people in the room are going to be calling 911 or calling their friends and family, someone has that information, how did it not reach the scene? What is supposed to happen?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, FORMER ACTING BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: I find it hard to believe that there was no type of communication going back and forth. I mean, it's common sense to get on with the dispatcher and say let me know what's going on anything send it to me, let me know, let us know. And so -- some of this stuff, I just really find it hard to understand with this incident, the levels of failure are just incredible beyond belief.


KING: The levels of failure are incredible and beyond belief. And again, if you put, please out of respect, let's just put up the faces here, 19 young children, two teachers who are heroes, educators are heroes no matter where they are, for what they do. And these, the families of these victims deserve the answers, more than anybody, more than anybody. Peter Licata, when you listen, again, credit due to Colonel McCraw for finally coming out and laying out the timeline as he did and for saying quite candidly, of course, it was the wrong decision. What questions do you have after listening to what we just went through?

PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's really hard, right, to listen to that as Chief Barksdale said. You know, the training, he focused on how Texas embraces active shooter training. I think Chief Barksdale would agree, the training is only good as the effort put into it. You're talking about a very small police department. The police department of Uvalde, the actual police departments of less than 50 people and then add the school resource officers to that which I think is a plus seven. That's a tiny police department with a part time SWAT team.

You know, in the FBI, we're required to qualify on our weapons. There's a multiple part answer to this. Four times a year for every weapon system that you own. For most law enforcement agencies, believe it or not four times as a lot. A majority of the police departments out there qualify once a year, sometimes maybe twice a year, which is not enough, right?

And then added to this active shooter training, it's briefed, you go through tabletop exercises, but how will you train on it? And there's an old saying from the military, even law enforcement, you train as you fight. You don't put the effort into training, you don't practice crisis management, you're going to fail. I've been on numerous crisis scenes before, 21 years of the FBI, I've done numerous tabletops.

And the seed, as Chief Barksdale mentioned, the biggest breakdown on any hot washer after action we do is always communications breaks down. And not to make this simplistic, you can tell that the communication broke down from the 911 dispatchers to the on-scene commander, whether it was the first sergeant that arrived or that police chief, too much indecisiveness, way too much indecisiveness in order to breach that door, whatever means they could, in order to try to stop this this perpetrator.

I picked up at 7:35. There were seven officers inside the building, and then the total 19 a few minutes later. What are those seven officers do? Active shooter training, three. Three officers what you need in order to neutralize a subject. That's the minimum you need to get in? That's -- those are the questions I have. How well did they train? And why did the communications break down?

KING: And to that point, Commissioner Barksdale, you know, Peter lays out that it takes three, at least that's the minimum to form a stack and go in and the person at the front of the stack obviously knows. They're likely to get shot when they burst through the door. That's their job. And we have amazing that -- these are men have amazing courage. In this case that something broke down.

And again, how does the command -- how should the command-and-control structure work in the sense that if the person inside for whatever reason, is making the wrong call, and you have officers outside, you have additional people responding. You have these 911 calls. I could go through the timeline again, but it frankly makes me sick and sad all at the same time. You have children inside the room using their phones to call 911. And this decision was not overruled. How is this supposed to work?

BARKSDALE: OK, John, if it's you, I am Peter, and we're the stack. And I'm the incident commander. I'm the highest ranked there. And I say, no, just leave him. This is a barricade and you two don't believe that I'm making the right decision. You know what, you go. You deal with the consequences of Barksdale saying you guys didn't follow orders later, down the road. But you go.

And I'm not trying to push insubordination. But this was clearly the wrong call. We got 19 officers in the hallway. Nobody breaks and says this is the wrong call. What verify that it was a barricade situation that this guy starts saying, hey, I'm done shooting kids. So I just want to try to negotiate now. What move this to a barricade situation? I don't know why this chief made this decision.

And having, like Peter said, these after actions are really crucial. And, you know what, sometimes you get your feelings hurt. But in this case, maybe somebody needs to be out of a job.

KING: Hopefully the investigation goes forward, and we get these answers and get to speak to them. Peter Licata, Commissioner Barksdale, grateful for your time on this sad day. Again, the haunting words of course, it was not the right decision. And there were plenty, plenty to do what needed to be done, that of course was not done. And that is the grim news, the wrong decision.


And do not forget, do not forget and you see right there, it's awful consequences, 19 children killed at school. Two have their teachers killed as well. A glaring law enforcement error. We will continue to push for more answers. Thank you for your time today. Thank you for your time today on this sad day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.