Two Uvalde city police officers passed up a fleeting chance to shoot a gunman outside Robb Elementary School before he went on to kill 21 people inside the school, a senior sheriff’s deputy told The New York Times.
That would mean a second missed opportunity for officers to stop the gunman before the May 24 rampage inside the school that killed 19 children and two teachers. Officials said that a school district police drove past the gunman without seeing him in the school parking lot.
The unidentified officers, one of whom was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, said they feared hitting children playing in the line of fire outside the school, Chief Deputy Ricardo Rios of nearby Zavala County told the newspaper.
The officers’ chance of stopping the gunman passed quickly, perhaps in seconds, Rios said.
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Messages from The Associated Press to Rios and the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office have not been returned. Rios did not immediately return a request for comment from NBC News. The Zavala County sheriff’s officials responded to the shooting in support of Uvalde and Uvalde County officers.
Rios said he had shared the information with a special Test House committee investigating the school massacre.
Uvalde police officials agreed Friday to speak to the committee investigating, according to a Republican lawmaker leading the probe who had begun to publicly question why the officers were not cooperating sooner.
“Took a little bit longer than we initially had expected,” state Rep. Dustin Burrows said.
On Thursday, Burrows signaled impatience with Uvalde police, tweeting that most people had fully cooperated with their investigation “to help determine the facts” and that he didn’t understand why the city’s police force “would not want the same.” He did not say which members of the department will meet with the committee, which is set to continue questioning witnesses in Uvalde on Monday about the attack that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Uvalde police did not reply to messages from the AP or NBC News seeking comment.
Weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, law enforcement officials have stopped providing updates about what they’ve learned about the shooting and the police response. Their silence comes after authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts in the days after the shooting, sometimes withdrawing statements hours after making them.
Officials also haven’t released records sought under public information laws to media outlets, including The Associated Press, often citing broad exemptions and the ongoing investigation. It has raised concerns about whether such records will be released, even to victims’ families.
The state House committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses behind closed doors so far, including state police, school staff and school district police. The list of witnesses provided by the committee so far has not included Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, who has faced criticism over his actions during the attack.
Burrows defended the committee interviewing witnesses in private and not revealing their findings so far, saying its members want an accurate account before issuing a report.
“One person’s truth may be different than another person’s truth,” Burrows said Friday.
Since the shooting, Republican leaders in Texas have called for more mental health funding but not new gun restrictions. Authorities say the 18-year-old gunman used and AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Police did not confront the gunman for more than an hour, even as anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go in.