What Are Police For?!
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 26, 2022
Frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman’s rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed by a Border Patrol team.
“Go in there! Go in there!” nearby women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his house, across the street from Robb Elementary School in the close-knit town of Uvalde. Carranza said the officers did not go in.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
I don’t get it. Look at the video. The police were armed, and wearing body armor! And that Ramos was in the school shooting little children!
I hope there is a good explanation for this. Because if not … how could you live with yourself as a cop, knowing that you just stood there?
UPDATE: Long comment by reader Dukeboy, who is a cop (he might now be retired, I can’t recall):
Long post incoming. TL;DR: If the video actually shows what it claims to show, then the responding police failed to follow what is now considered the best practices for response to an active shooter situation. But I’m not sure that the video shows what the Twitter user claims it shows.
I started policing in 1997. The Columbine massacre was in 1999. I witnessed firsthand the evolution of law enforcement response to school shootings over two decades.
There had been school shootings before, but Columbine really was different. Most school shootings, even today, are directed, personal beefs between the shooter and specific individuals who he thinks have done him wrong. They’re gang disputes or a solitary loser mad at a specific bully or a jilted boyfriend mad at the girl who broje his heart. My point is that they’re targeted, specific attacks. The shooter shoots who he thinks needs to be shot and, other than anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire or who attempts to intervene, nobody else gets hurt.
The idea of a planned slaughter of innocent, nonpersonal victims was not completely unheard of in 1999, but it was also not fully defined or understood the way it is today. Yes, people did “go postal,” but those were deeply traumatized, damaged people, like ex- Vietnam vets who’d dropped too much acid and were now employed as postal workers due to veteran’s preference points during the civil service process who suddenly started seeing V.C. hiding in the mailbags. It was not something that kids did.
So the response by law enforcement to Columbine that day in 1999 was completely consistent with what was standard practice at the time. It was a “hostage situation,” because the term “active shooter” was fully conceptualized and defined back then. Military and paramilitary hierarchical organizations try to identify scenarios and plan the response to fit those scenarios because it saves time, equipment, and, ultimately, manpower. “If X, do Y.” Columbine was a “hostage situation,” so “set up perimeter and wait for SWAT” was the correct answer to the defined problem at that time.
It didn’t work because Columbine wasn’t a “hostage situation.” The public was outraged and demanded changes. The concept of “active shooter” as opposed to “hostage situation” was refined and law enforcement tactics evolved to fit the newly understood scenario.
It was recognized that securing the perimeter and waiting for SWAT wasn’t the correct solution. However, part of the reason that SWAT was considered the best solution was because SWAT would have the best equipment, particularly semi- automatic rifles and/ or fully automatic submachine guns and/or scoped and calibrated sniper rifles to handle the threat. They would also have the correct training to do forced entry and building searches.
So, problem one was that all police officers, but particularly patrol officers, needed the same equipment available to them as SWAT officers. Columbine, along with the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery shootout where two heavily armored and heavily armed suspects held off the LAPD, convinced most LE executives and administrators that the shotgun was no longer sufficient to serve as the standard long gun compliment to the officer’s sidearm. Police departments embraced the issuance of the semi- automatic AR-15 instead.
The second component was that all officers had to be trained to respond to the newly defined threat scenario in a manner that was effective and safe for them. They all needed to practice it. A policy and procedure for how to do it needed to be developed. The response would depend primarily on the resources that would be available quickly.
I worked for an urban department. Our policy called for responding officers to form teams of four, led by either the highest ranking officer or the officer with the most seniority, that would then enter the scene and begin a “seek and destroy” mission to locate and “neutralize” the shooter. You do not stop to render aid to the injured. You do not stop to evacuate anyone. You move quickly to find and kill the shooter as long as he is actively killing people.
As more officers arrive, they form up teams of four and start their own “seek and destroy” missions. You do this until the shooter is neutralized (killed/ captured) or until he’s confined/ trapped/ barricaded. At that point you have to shift gears from “active shooter” to “hostage situation” and the response changes. Now you have a team or two or three contain the shooter to make sure he can’t escape. Others can then, if safe to do so, begin treating the wounded and evacuating other students. Now you’re waiting for SWAT to come in and either negotiate the shooter’s surrender or you’ll be sending in your best trained and equipped personnel to finish the job.
This is how large jurisdictions should do it. However, over time, a new theory of tactical response was posited that even waiting to form up two- officer teams was too long, particularly in rural areas. The new response stated that the very first officer to arrive should go in alone to confront the shooter as quick as possible.
There is some “science” behind this directive. Analysis of these events showed that in something like 90% of these cases, the shooter either immediately surrendered or killed himself upon being confronted with armed resistance. It’s the other 10% that make it dicey. You go in with four so that you can have a set of eyes covering every direction as you move through what is probably an unfamiliar building. You go with at least two so that at least you can have eyes ahead and behind.
You go in by yourself and the suspect gets the drop on you, well, now you have a dead cop and your suspect has access to the dead cop’s equipment. If he didn’t have an AR-15 before, he has one now. It’s a “high risk, high reward” strategy to go in alone, but it might be the only tactical option in a rural area.
Which finally leads us to this particular incident. There are lots of conflicting reports. As I understand the situation, the suspect killed his grandmother and went to the school. There was a School Resource Officer there who was shot early on. Apparently some officers did enter the school, including an off- duty Border Patrol Officer who was a member of their SWAT team equivalent and who is credited with the kill.
I think the video is showing moments after the suspect has been neutralized, but before the children have been released. There is still a lot of confusion and the arriving parents are obviously upset. But I’m not sure the shooting is still active.
One “tell” is that there is crime scene tape up. You don’t stop to put crime scene tape up if lead is still flying. That’s dumb.
Another thing to consider is that reports are that the shooter had barricaded himself in a classroom where most of the casualties occurred. So, now we’re talking about the difference between an active shooter and a hostage situation as I described above. Your response has to shift gears at the point that the shooter is contained. That may be what happened here.
It well and truly sucks, to put it lightly, for anyone who gets trapped by and with the shooter once he barricades himself. The law enforcement response has to make hard decisions about the lives of the hostages against the lives of everyone else in the building. Where is the classroom where the shooter is barricaded? Who’s in the classroom next door? (Bullets go through interior walls pretty easily.) Can we evacuate other parts of the building?
The impulse to “Do something! Anything!” is strong, especially among parents. But you have to do the right thing. More importantly, you have to do the effective thing. Bum rushing a well- armed suspect in a barricaded position where he has lots of hostages is rarely the most effective thing if you define “effective” as “save as many hostages as possible.”
UPDATE.2: More Dukeboy:
I’ll try to keep this one short(er). Since I made the first couple of posts, more information contradicting a lot of the initial information provided in the first press conferences (and on which some of my initial analysis was based) has come out.
1. It does not seem that an armed SRO confronted Ramos outside the back door as was initially reported. It seems now that Ramos was able to enter the unlocked backdoor unchallenged.
2. The first 3 officers arrived shortly after Ramos entered the backdoor and engaged him in the hallway.
3. The backdoor may have been unlocked because of an awards ceremony earlier in the day and parents had been coming in and out. Failure to keep that door secured is completely on the school personnel. It is unknown if Ramos had any reason to know that door was unlocked or if he just got lucky.
4. At any rate, police did enter the building almost immediately and exchanged gunfire with Ramos. All three were apparently injured during the exchange.
5. Ramos had tried other classroom doors before finding the unlocked 4th grade classroom. It is not clear if there had been a specific lockdown order issued inside the school. I have seen a report that it was actually school policy to keep interior classroom doors locked at all times during instruction. The fact that classroom door was unlocked when others were locked means that the teacher had either failed to follow the lockdown order or had failed to follow standard policy.
6. Ramos fired most of his shots that killed and injured students in the first seconds of entering the classroom. He then became a barricaded hostage taker as opposed to an active shooter, as I explained in my earlier posts.
7. There was a connecting door to an adjoining classroom. Ramos breached that and killed/ injured students in that room as well. He was essentially barricaded in two rooms.
8. The response to a barricade subject is different than the “seek and destroy” response to an active shooter. I’ve explained the reasons to respond in one way or the other in my other posts.
9. The story that some off- duty officers responded and evacuated their kids, along with all of the other kids in the same classrooms, is true. However, the school is made up of several wings. Ramos was confined to the classrooms in one wing or annex. The other wings could safely be evacuated and that’s where the evacuations took place. It would not have been tactically sound to evacuate the wing where Ramos was confined.