GUEST COMMENTARY - A truck speeds past the parking lot of Robb Elementary School, turns abruptly and crashes into the ditch amid a cloud of dust.
Two men turn towards the wreck and then retreat as the driver starts firing at them with an AR-15 rifle. The crash is seen by a teacher who calls 9-11. She tells the operator: “I can’t see him. The kids are running. The kids are running. Oh my god.”
After firing several blasts of shots toward the school, the Uvalde shooter enters the building. It’s now 11:33 in the morning. By this time, several more 9/11 calls have alerted the police to a shooting incident at the school. A school security camera records the shooter as he saunters down the hallway, pauses briefly to peer around a corner, runs a hand through his hair, then continues down the hall toward classrooms 111 and 112.
At this point, a young boy wearing glasses comes out of the bathroom on the left side of the hall, freezes when he sees the shooter open fire, then runs back into the bathroom.
The killer continues shooting inside the classrooms for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, firing more than 100 rounds.
At 11:36, the same security camera shows numerous police enter the building and move cautiously down the hall. A minute later, the police come running back after taking fire from the gunman. One officer is seen holding his head, thinking he’d been shot. He looks at his hand. Doesn’t see any blood. Shakes his head. Another cop is shown checking his phone, using his handgun as a stylus. His lock screen depicts the logo for “The Punisher.” But this man is no avenging super-hero. He cowered for more than an hour while kids as young as 9-years-old bled out just down the hall.
By 11:52, more police have gathered in the hall, which is crowded now with cops. Many of the new arrivals are outfitted in SWAT gear: helmets, body armor, assault rifles. Several are carrying bullet-proof shields.
The digital time stamp reads 12:09 and the police are still mulling about at the end of the hall, far from the classrooms, where the screams of terrified and wounded children have been muted so as not to distress us. More than 36 minutes have ticked by since the killer entered the building.
At 12:21, the shooter fires four more shots. A couple of cops flinch at the sound of the gunfire. More screaming comes down the hall. We don’t hear it, but the cops do. Slowly a group of police with guns, shields and body armor move down the corridor. One cop can be heard saying, “They’re making entry.”
More time passes. Two minutes. Five minutes. Seven minutes. Nine minutes. It’s now 12:30. Fifty-seven minutes after the killer entered the building. Fifty-four minutes after the first police set foot in the hallway. Thirty-eight minutes after the SWAT team showed up with the ballistic shields. Still no entry has been made. No entry has even been attempted.
The camera shows a plainclothes cop in a helmet walk across the hall to a dispenser on the wall. He squirts some sanitizer into his cupped hands. Rubs them together, as if scrubbing his hands of the entire affair, then ambles back to his position behind a corner.
Then at 12:50, there’s the sound of more rapid gunfire, as police finally opened the unlocked classroom door and a Border Patrol agent shot and killed the gunman, an hour and seventeen minutes after he first entered the building and killed 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others. Seventy-seven minutes. When did the screaming stop?
(Jeffrey St. Clair is an investigative journalist featured in counter punch.)