Multiple school security failures contributed to Uvalde mass shooting
Police response to the shooting was an “abject failure,” a top Texas official said, but other basic safety features, including door locks, failed on the day of the shooting.
Automatic locking doors and law enforcement radios — things that were supposed to protect children from mass shootings — failed in the Uvalde school massacre, a top Texas official testified Tuesday.
In testimony before the state legislature, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw outlined several school security failures that may have contributed to the tragic outcome at Robb Elementary last month, when a gunman opened fire and killed two teachers and 19 students.
While he described the police response to the shooting as an “abject failure,” McCraw said there also were several basic safety failures within the school building that should have been addressed long before the May 24 attack.
For instance, McCraw said, neither the exterior door nor the classroom doors could be locked from the inside that day, giving the gunman an easy pathway.
Failure One: Exterior door didn’t lock
Shooter Salvador Rodrigo Ramos essentially “walked straight through” the school’s west entrance because an exterior door could be locked only from the outside, McCraw said during his testimony. While law enforcement initially blamed a teacher for leaving the door open, McCraw said the teacher actually shut the door not knowing that it had not locked.
In order to secure the door, someone would have had to lock it from the outside leaving others inside, McCraw explained.
The door has a hex key, also known as an Allen key or Allen wrench, that disables its automatic lock mechanism, and in the case of Robb Elementary, “someone consciously had made a decision that it was OK to have that as a nonlocking door that day,” said state Sen. Charles Perry, who added that that style of door is used in a majority of schools across the state.
When asked what could possibly be the reason to have doors like that, McCraw seemed befuddled.
“I can’t explain it. It makes no sense at all,” McCraw said, adding that there are much better locking systems that could have been used at the school. “I can’t imagine that this is safe.”
The failure of the exterior door as a first line of defense reignited calls from Texas leaders to “harden” schools to prevent shootings.
“After Santa Fe in 2018, and I was there on that scene pretty early, and said that day that we need to reduce entrances and have locked doors and I was actually ridiculed at that time,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said after the Senate hearing. “Had there been one single entrance possibly for every student, maybe he would have been stopped. You can do everything in the world, you can train all the officers, you can have everyone aware, but if doors are unlocked and don’t function, that is a major breakdown.”
Patrick did not immediately return a request for comment by NBC News. He has previously advocated for fewer doors in schools, saying in 2018 that buildings contained too many entrances and exits.
Failure Two: “Dysfunctional” classroom door
As Ramos made his way down the halls of the school, eventually choosing to enter classrooms 111 and 112, the classroom doors did not lock from the inside, McCraw said.
The doors were “dysfunctional” and “not secure” in that the locking mechanism did not work properly. It is unclear if that was by design or if it was a malfunction.
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“When the school went into lockdown and the training that occurred in reality, it’s a myth,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt said. “There is no school lockdown at Robb elementary because the doors can’t be locked from the inside … there is no barrier to the shooter walking into a classroom in this particular case because of the strike plate being broken and so we’re training people in a situation where they simply don’t have the equipment to protect themselves.”
“We set up a condition to failure in an active shooter environment,” Bettencourt said.