As an active shooter terrorized an Uvalde elementary school Tuesday, killing 21, an elite group of federal border agents defied police orders, stormed the building, and neutralized the target.
The border agents immediately wanted to enter the school, but were held back by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief for 30 minutes.
Eventually unwilling to wait any longer, the squad defied orders to remain outside and broke into the classroom where the shooter had blockaded himself. After a brief confrontation, the squad shot and killed the assailant, 18-year old Salvador Ramos.
The trained agents included members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) and the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Uvalde, which is less than 80 miles from the US border with Mexico, is no stranger to immigration law enforcement. Prior to responding to the school shooting, the four agents were on the other side of town investigating stash houses when local law enforcement radioed for help.
After rushing to the crime scene, the unit was ready to go in and lockdown the building, but was instead instructed to remain outside.
Police Chief Pete Arredondo mistakenly thought the shooter locked himself in a room and did not pose a threat to anyone in the building. And for 30 minutes after arriving on the scene, the border agents operated along his lines of this assumption.
But repeated 911 calls from inside classrooms prompted concerns from parents and law enforcement the situation was unsustainable.
At around 12:43 p.m., a girl inside the school called police again with the message: "please send police now."
BORTAC agents couldn’t ignore the situation any longer. After almost 30 minutes of waiting, the unit stormed the building at 12:50 p.m.
Minutes later, they shot and killed Ramos.
The delay was confusing — and not just to parents watching the situation unfold from outside.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed frustration at the slow response of law enforcement. He said he was led to believe police had immediately rushed the school. But, he said later, that was not the case.
"I was misled," Abbott said. "I am livid about what happened. I was on this very stage two days ago, and I was telling the public information that …turned out in part to be inaccurate. I am absolutely livid about that."
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