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Texas officials: Teacher didn’t leave door propped open before massacre

Authorities said last week that the gunman entered Robb Elementary School through a door that a teacher left open

Visitations for the first two victims of the Uvalde shooting were held May 30. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Four days after saying that the gunman who massacred children in a Uvalde, Tex., elementary school had gotten inside through a door “propped open by a teacher,” the state agency investigating the massacre now says the educator had closed the door.

The teacher shut the door behind her, but it “did not lock as it should,” Travis Considine, chief of communications with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday. “And now investigators are looking into why that was.”

This latest account came Tuesday, a week after a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers inside Robb Elementary School in the country’s deadliest school massacre in nearly a decade. Authorities in Texas are facing criticism both for their response to the shooting and their public accounts of what happened, which have included statements, details and narratives that officials later amended, revised or withdrew entirely.

These are the victims of the Texas shooting

The status of the door is particularly notable, because it addresses how the gunman made it inside the school despite security measures.

On Friday, Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, seemed to suggest that an employee error played a critical role, saying that the unnamed teacher had previously propped open a door used as an “access point” by the gunman.

“That back door was propped open,” McCraw said Friday. “It wasn’t supposed to be propped open; it was supposed to be locked.”

Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland victims' families spoke to The Post about their shared grief, trauma and hope for action following the Texas school shooting. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Joy Yi, Leila Barghouty/The Washington Post, Photo: Eric Gay/AP/The Washington Post)

In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, an attorney who said he represents the teacher offered a different account. The attorney said the educator had called 911 to report the gunman crashing his vehicle nearby and closed the door while still on the phone.

The teacher ran inside to get her phone, called 911 and “kicked the rock away when she went back in,” attorney Don Flanary told the newspaper, apparently referring to a rock used to hold the door open. “She remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting. She thought the door would lock because that door is always supposed to be locked.”

Flanary did not respond to messages left at his law firm on Tuesday.

Uvalde: 90 minutes of terror, a failed police response and shattered trust

In an interview after the Express-News story was published, Considine told The Washington Post that investigators had reviewed additional video evidence that let them “determine that the teacher did indeed remove the rock from the door when she went back into the school, and shut the door.”

Since the shooting, officials have faced withering criticism over the series of details that they have released about the shooting, only to later say that information was incorrect. Authorities initially said the gunman exchanged fire with a school police officer outside, only to later say this never happened; they also said the shooter was wearing body armor but reversed course on that as well.

Authorities say law enforcement personnel who eventually stormed the classroom shot and killed the attacker, although an autopsy report has not been released.

Police have also been pilloried for not pursuing the gunman more quickly while he was inside with children calling 911, pleading for help. McCraw said the school district’s police chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, had determined the gunman had “transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject,” so there was a delay of more than an hour before officials stormed the classroom. “It was the wrong decision,” McCraw said.

How the official accounts about the Uvalde shooting have changed

Arredondo has not spoken publicly since McCraw’s description of his approach during the massacre. Nor has he responded to numerous messages seeking comment.

Considine said that Arredondo had spoken to investigators about the shooting but, as of Tuesday afternoon, “has yet to respond” to a request for a follow-up interview from the Texas Rangers, who are investigating the massacre as well as the law enforcement response.

The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which bills itself as “the largest police labor organization in the state,” said in a statement Tuesday that there has been rampant “false information” released surrounding the attack.

“There has been a great deal of false and misleading information in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the group said. “Some of the information came from the very highest levels of government and law enforcement. Sources that Texans once saw as iron-clad and completely reliable have now been proven false.”

The group said it was advising members “to cooperate fully” with investigators.

Steve Thompson contributed to this report.