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Uvalde school police hosted active shooter training in March

Law enforcement's top priority during a mass shooting should be to "stop the killing," according to Texas's crisis curriculum.

SAN ANTONIO — The Uvalde school police force hosted an active shooter training session on March 22, according to a department Facebook post. 

"Our overall goal is to train every Uvalde area law enforcement officer so that we can prepare as best as possible for any situation that may arise," the post reads. "We have hosted several of these courses and plan to continue to do so."

On May 24, some of those school officials responded to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary. A gunman murdered 19 students and two teachers before tactical agents killed him. 

The shooter was inside the school for 1 hour and 17 minutes. 

Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said the UCISD police chief, acting as commander on scene, made poor decisions which allowed the shooter more time inside the classroom. 

State curriculum UCISD police department staff studied in March makes clear that officers responding to a mass shooting must first "stop the killing." 

"(The) officer's first priority is to move in and confront the attacker. This may include bypassing the injured and not responding to cries for help from children," the plan reads.

This strategy, developed after Columbine and codified by researchers at Texas State University in 2002, is considered the nation's gold standard for crisis response. The feds have endorsed the playbook.

But the course relies on commanders to determine whether they are responding to an active shooter situation. If law enforcement inaccurately assesses the scene, their training becomes moot. 

The course says officers are not obligated to deal with the attacker if the shooter is in an area where they are "isolated, cannot escape, and can do no more harm to students, staff, or visitors." Instead, they should wait for backup, "treating the situation as a barricaded subject."

As students inside begged 911 dispatchers for help, the commanding officer did not revert from barricaded subject protocol to active shooter protocol. 

"There were children in that classroom that were at-risk," McCraw said. "It was, in fact, still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject."

A student placed the first 911 from inside the classroom at 12:03, thirty minutes after the shooter entered. At 12:16, the same student called and informed dispatchers that at least eight students were still alive. 

Another student called 911 at 12:19. 

At 12:47, the first caller asked dispatchers to "please send police now," McCraw said. 

It's not clear whether dispatchers successfully relayed the students' calls for help to the UCISD police chief, who was commanding law enforcement's response from the school hallway. 

A Border Patrol tactical team carrying ballistic shields entered the classroom at 12:50 and killed the shooter. 

Dispatchers were in almost-constant contact with students inside for 47 minutes. Still, law enforcement waited to breach the classroom. 

"Of course that was not the right decision," McCraw continued. "It was the wrong decision. Period. There is no excuse for that."

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