SAY WHAT? - Horror. As a madman in Uvalde, Texas fired over 100 shots execution-style, murdering 19 fourth-graders and their two teachers, newly released security video shows a swarm of police armed with rifles, handguns, helmets, armor, bulletproof vests, shields, tear gas, gas masks and a sledgehammer standing in the hallway of Robb Elementary School for 77 minutes doing....nothing - though one did take time out, Lady-Macbeth-like, to wash his hands, and some of their colleagues outside were busy harrassing and handcuffing frantic parents. After some debate, and in conjunction with their news partners KVUE television station, the Austin American-Statesman just released the gut-churning video from school security cameras documenting the May 24 massacre. The paper published two versions of the video: one edited to just over four minutes highlighting critical moments; one covering in real time the entire, grisly, hour-and-22 minutes as the shooter crashed his truck outside, entered the school, shot his way into the classroom, and kept periodically, repeatedly shooting as police dawdled in the hallway for an hour and 14 minutes until a couple of them breached the classroom and killed the shooter. We see, the Statesman concludes, "dozens of sworn officers, local, state and federal - heavily armed - walking back and forth in the hallway, some leaving the camera frame and then reappearing, others training their weapons toward the classroom, talking, making cellphone calls, sending texts and looking at floor plans, but (not) attempting to enter the classrooms."
The video, notes the Statesman, is "tragic to listen to and watch." It's also enraging. Multiple times, it exposes the response, or lack of same, from conspicuously-armed, so-called good guys from at least five law enforcement agencies as "an abject failure" - the three cops who run to the classroom when the shooting begins and, at the sound of more gunfire, scramble away again; the cops who inexplicably still slouch, unmoving, through sporadic outbursts of gunfire; one cop checking his phone, one chatting with a cohort, one crossing the hall (WTFC) to squirt on hand sanitizer; the cops who keep arriving with more weaponry - shields, gas masks, sledgehammer - but still wait. Later revelations add to the fury: students who quietly, desperately called 911 from inside the classroom; parents outside harangued and thrown to the ground as they begged cops to DO something; the delay as cops looked for keys to a classroom that, if they'd turned the fucking doorknob, they'd have found was unlocked; the astounding incompetence of School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who "decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children" but then claimed police never "hesitated" and besides he wasn't in charge and "didn't issue any orders," except to ask for "an extraction tool" to open a door that was unlocked; the fact there was ultimately, fatally, "blame enough here to go around." Even with all that malfeasance, the Statesman wrote in an editorial, the decision to publish was only made "after long and thoughtful discussions." In the end, they said, "We have to bear witness to history."
Predictably, leak of the video was decried by police who'd been blocking it, claiming it could give future madmen ideas; clearly, they didn't want more flak from a public already trashing their clusterfuck response. Others said the video, which families hadn't seen, would further traumatize relatives so angry they just marched to demand answers from officials; among loud state pols - Cruz and his door fetish, Abbott citing/ignoring mental health needs - only Beto came. Online at #UvaldePoliceCowards and #UvaldeCoverUp, people raged about abusive bad-ass cops who suddenly turn craven: "Blue Lives Scatter...They just didn't move...You could've saved some lives, held somebody's hand as they lay dying...19 children, 2 teachers, 77 MINUTES!" Many were especially horrified by the cop washing his hands of metaphorical blood: "All these children being torn apart down the hall, but sanitizer guy here, he's got clean hands...That is some Pontius Pilate shit right there." The city council tried to push back, charging the media was "chicken" and "chicken shit" to release the video: "That was not supposed to be there." From the crowd: "What about the cops? Were they chickenshit?" "We're going to handle that," said the mayor. "Everyone will be held accountable." The Statesman likewise argued, "The truth always prevails." But not too much of it: In a corner of the video, they noted, "We have removed the sound of children screaming...We consider this too graphic." Note to America: When her son Emmett was savagely murdered in August 1955, Mamie Till demanded his mutilated body lie in an open casket so the world "could see what they did to my baby." Sordid fact: Mass murder of kids is graphic. Let their screams resound.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])