Uvalde residents were some of the first to start filming parents and police outside Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, as a gunman inside fatally shot 19 children and two adults.
Their videos capture radio chatter from officials inside the school confirming that there are “a lot of victims”, to daring escapes by students and teachers who broke through windows and back doors as they raced to a rally point at a nearby funeral home.
Mike Palacios, a 38-year-old small business owner in Uvalde, quickly drove to the main entrance of Robb Elementary after seeing a Facebook post from the local Police Department that said there was a high police presence at the school.
“When I was taking the Facebook live, I was next to a Border Patrol unit,” Palacios said. “It was a hot mic, so we were able to hear what was going on inside the school. So at that moment, I captured what seemed to be a little girl saying that she had been shot, you know, asking for help.”
Bill Burns was inside his parent’s house just south of the local elementary school when he heard gun shots.
Thinking one of his neighbors was in trouble, Burns grabbed his shotgun, peaked outside the door and noticed people walking toward the school.
So, he stored the firearm and grabbed DSLR camera instead and walked over, not realizing he was he would be one of the first witness to have professional equipment to capture video of the gunshots being heard as police approached the school.
“I mean, I saw the police come in and lock down the school quickly,” Burns said. “And then when I saw children coming out through the windows… it felt like, okay, great, they’re getting the kids out. You know, they’re going to be okay. I had no idea what had already transpired by that point.”
After the attack left 19 children and two teachers dead in a fourth grade classroom, police offered a confusing and sometimes contradictory timeline that drew public anger and frustration.
The Justice Department will review law enforcement’s response and the delay in confronting the shooter who was inside the school for more than an hour.
The Uvalde School District police chief, Pete Arredondo, decided that the group of officers should wait to confront the assailant, on the belief that the active attack was over, according to Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The crisis ended shortly after officers used keys from a janitor to open the classroom door, entered the room and shot and killed the gunman.
Palacios feels the law enforcement should’ve acted sooner.
“You go by what you know,” Palacios said. “You know he was shooting. You know he has a gun. You know there’s kids in there. You have to get in there.”
Burns said he said his videos that capture the school during the shooting with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and hopes that it helps deliver a more accurate timeline and helps the Uvalde community heal.
“Healing cannot happen with unanswered questions. You can’t forgive somebody that doesn’t acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong,” Burns said. “The truth is, is paramount. You’ve got to know the truth to move on.”
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