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How the official accounts about the Uvalde shooting have changed

Victor Escalon, regional director for the Department of Public Safety South Texas, spoke about an investigation into the shooting in Uvalde, Tex., on May 24. (Video: AP)
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Since a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., on Tuesday, killing 19 children and two teachers, authorities have provided an incomplete — and evolving — explanation of what happened.

Officials, who are facing mounting questions about the police response to the massacre, have offered varied timelines and explanations of the massacre and law enforcement’s response. They have also made sometimes inconsistent or contradictory announcements about key details, such as how the shooter entered the school or how long he was inside. They have even withdrawn some claims outright.

While it is common for details to shift following mass attacks, some of the changes in Uvalde made during news briefings and interviews have been striking. Here is a brief rundown of some ways the official accounts have differed:

Did anyone try to stop the gunman from entering the school?

Authorities had initially said the attacker exchanged gunfire with a school police officer on Tuesday before entering the school.

Travis Considine, chief of communications with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday that after crashing his vehicle into a railing near Robb Elementary, the gunman encountered a school police officer and “they exchange gunfire.” The gunman, Considine said, “shoots the officer, wounds him, goes into the school.”

Also on Wednesday, Lt. Christopher Olivarez, another DPS spokesman, said in a separate interview with The Post that the attacker and the school police officer exchanged gunfire. The officer was shot and injured, Olivarez said.

During a briefing later Wednesday, Steven C. McCraw, director of DPS, said a school police officer “engaged” the shooter but that no shots were exchanged. Officials have noted that the investigation is ongoing, and McCraw described the information as preliminary.

Speaking on Thursday, Victor Escalon Jr., a regional director with DPS, offered a significant change to the official account, saying that there was no school resource officer who confronted the shooter at all. In short, he admitted, none of that happened.

“It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” Escalon said of the information his agency had released. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed.”

On Friday, during another news briefing that further changed the official account, McCraw said a school police officer was not on campus initially, but heard the 911 call about an armed man and drove there. But, McCraw said, the officer “drove right by the suspect,” who was lurking behind a vehicle, and instead “sped to what he thought was the man with a gun” near the back of the school. That man, McCraw said, wound up being a teacher.

Gunman was inside school for an hour before he was killed by police

A lengthy gap between the attacker arriving and going inside — and then no gap at all

Authorities had initially seemed to suggest that little time elapsed between the gunman crashing his vehicle near the school and heading inside. They then suggested a longer gap, before amending that again to say that was not the case.

Officials say the gunman shot his grandmother in the face — prompting her to contact police — before driving to the school. Speaking at the Wednesday briefing, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that after shooting his grandmother, “the gunman fled, and as he was fleeing, had an accident just outside of the elementary school, and he ran into the school.”

McCraw, at the same briefing, said the gunman crashed the vehicle, got out and approached the school, where he said the school resource officer “engaged” the attacker. The gunman was still “able to make it into the school,” he said.

But on Thursday, Escalon said there was actually a considerable gap officials had not previously disclosed. Escalon said that after crashing his vehicle, the gunman had instead remained outside for 12 minutes, firing his gun at nearby people and the school. Escalon said police only arrived after the gunman had gone inside, adding that the door appeared to be unlocked.

On Friday, McCraw said that according to video footage, the gunman crashed near the school at 11:28 a.m. and had gone into the school five minutes later. The door was not unlocked but appeared to be “propped open by a teacher,” McCraw said.

Four days later, an attorney for the teacher and the public safety agency offered another account of what happened — this time saying the door was not left open after all.

An attorney for the teacher told the San Antonio Express News that the educator had called police to report the attacker crashing nearby and “remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting.” In a telephone interview after that story was published, Considine said investigators had reviewed video evidence and “were able to determine” that the teacher had actually shut the door. But “the door did not lock as it should,” Considine said, so investigators were exploring why.

The victims of the Uvalde shooting

Barricaded vs. pinned down

In his account Wednesday, McCraw said that police officers began to “engage” the attacker while he was inside the classroom. McCraw said law enforcement “continued to keep him pinned down in that location” until a tactical team could be put together to breach the classroom.

Also on Wednesday, Olivarez, the DPS spokesman, told CNN that officers responding to the gunman once he was inside “were at a disadvantage because the gunman was able to make entry into a classroom, barricade himself inside that classroom,” suggesting that instead of keeping him pinned in one place intentionally, authorities were unable to get to him.

Speaking on Thursday, Escalon also said the gunman was inside for about an hour before law enforcement officials confronted him.

But on Friday, McCraw gave a different account. He said that the commander on the scene decided that the gunman had shifted from an active shooter to a “barricaded subject,” so they made no efforts to break down the door and get inside. McCraw bluntly called this a mistake: “It was the wrong decision, period.”

At a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., residents and families gathered to seek comfort in their community. (Video: Alice Li, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Body armor vs. no body armor

Officials had initially said the gunman was wearing body armor, before reversing course and saying this was not the case.

Sgt. Erick Estrada, another spokesman for DPS, described the gunman as having “a rifle and body armor on.” Later, Olivarez said the gunman was not wearing body armor, but instead a vest to store extra magazines, though it did not contain any protective armored plates.

Making entry or not making entry

Officials have also made unclear statements about whether they actually made it into the building before they say police confronted and shot the gunman.

During Thursday’s news briefing, Escalon contradicted himself on the subject. He said initially that the officers were “inside making entry” but had to take cover while the gunman shot at them, he later made it sound like they did not make it inside, saying: “They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire.”

But speaking on Friday, McCraw said that a phalanx of police officers did make it inside the school. First, three Uvalde police officers went in through the same door used by the shooter, and then more followed. McCraw said there were “as many as 19 officers” in a school hallway by about 12 p.m. — nearly an hour, he said, before law enforcement officials confronted and killed the gunman.

Joanna Slater, Meryl Kornfield, Jon Swaine and Joyce Sohyun Lee contributed to this report, which has been updated with additional accounts since it was first published.

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