Uvalde police feared AR-15

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Much ink–both digital and real–has been dedicated to lambasting the Uvalde Police Department for their absolute failure to go into Robb Elementary School. Instead, they played it like it was a hostage situation and we’ll never know how many lives that cost.


It seems that the police had concerns, though. They were apparently afraid of the gunman’s “battle rifle.”

Once they saw a torrent of bullets tear through a classroom wall and metal door, the first police officers in the hallway of Robb Elementary School concluded they were outgunned. And that they could die.

The gunman had an AR-15, a rifle design used by U.S. soldiers in every conflict since Vietnam. Its bullets flew toward the officers at three times the speed of sound and could have pierced their body armor like a hole punch through paper. They grazed two officers in the head, and the group retreated.

Point of order, the AR-15 hasn’t been used by soldiers “in every conflict since Vietnam.” It just looks an awful lot like the one used since that period.

Anyway, pedantics out of the way, let’s move on.

Almost a year after Texas’ deadliest school shooting killed 19 children and two teachers, there is still confusion among investigators, law enforcement leaders and politicians over how nearly 400 law enforcement officers could have performed so poorly. People have blamed cowardice or poor leadership or a lack of sufficient training for why police waited more than an hour to breach the classroom and subdue an amateur 18-year-old adversary.

But in their own words, during and after their botched response, the officers pointed to another reason: They were unwilling to confront the rifle on the other side of the door.

A Texas Tribune investigation, based on police body cameras, emergency communications and interviews with investigators that have not been made public, found officers had concluded that immediately confronting the gunman would be too dangerous. Even though some officers were armed with the same rifle, they opted to wait for the arrival of a Border Patrol SWAT team, with more protective body armor, stronger shields and more tactical training — even though the unit was based more than 60 miles away.

“You knew that it was definitely an AR,” Uvalde Police Department Sgt. Donald Page said in an interview with investigators after the school shooting. “There was no way of going in. … We had no choice but to wait and try to get something that had better coverage where we could actually stand up to him.”


So, law enforcement was afraid to go in because they feared being shot by a weapon they were ill-equipped to deal with.

Now, I get some of that concern. The AR’s 5.56 round is going to go through the level II (at most) armor the officers were wearing.

While I get it, though, I don’t think I can excuse it.

These are supposed to be the very people we’re supposed to trust with our safety. “You don’t need to carry a gun,” we’ve all been told, “that’s what the police are for.”

And yet, when small children were being slaughtered, those same officers worried more about their own hides than the lives of 5th graders. If they’ll let them die, what chance do adults like you and I have?

The answer, of course, is none.

I also can’t help but wonder just how much of a role media coverage of the AR-15 might have played. Police officers aren’t weapons experts on the whole. Sure, some are, but most are just guys who carry a gun as part of their job. They’re not really well-versed in the technical side of firearms.

So they see the reports on the news and the internet about how deadly this rifle is and that is what played in their minds as they refused to enter the school. We all know the media won’t talk about it, of course, but it’s hard for me to imagine that none of the fear about the AR-15 didn’t stem from sensationalist media reports.


Either way, we now know that this wasn’t some horrible misunderstanding of the situation. This was fear to act, which by definition is cowardice.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member