A newly-released photo has captured heavily armed law enforcement officers outside the classroom in Uvalde a staggering 46 minutes before officers entered the room and shot the gunman dead.
The image, taken from surveillance video in the hallway of Robb Elementary School, shows at least four officers aiming long rifles towards the two adjoining classrooms where mass shooter Salvador Ramos was holed up with his victims.
The officers – who appear to be from multiple agencies – are decked out in protective gear including helmets and bulletproof vests while they stand behind two ballistic shields.
The photo, obtained by the Texas Tribune, was taken at 12.04pm on 24 May – 46 minutes before officers with a Border Patrol unit finally breached the classroom at 12.50pm.
It is also 31 minutes after Ramos first entered the classroom at 11.33am and began unleashing a hail of gunfire on innocent students and staff.
And it was 28 minutes after the first officers arrived in the school hallway at around 11.36am armed with rifles and pistols and wearing bulletproof vests.
The release of the photo comes as law enforcement continues to come under fire for their bungled response to the mass shooting with a state investigator describing their actions that day as an “abject failure”.
In total, there was a 77-minute delay from the time that Ramos entered the school and started shooting victims and officers entering the classroom and shooting him dead.
Nineteen students aged just nine to 11 years old and two heroic teachers were killed in the massacre.
This delayed response is believed to have cost some of their lives with one teacher dying in an ambulance on her way to hospital and three children succumbing to their injuries after arriving at hospital.
On Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director (TDPS) Steve McCraw testified at a Texas Senate hearing that there were enough armed officers on the scene to stop the gunman just three minutes after the shooting began.
But, instead, law enforcement waited another one hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds as on-site commander Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo failed to send officers into the classroom.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west hallway, there was sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour, to isolate distract and neutralise the subject,” he said.
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.
“The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had body armour. The children had none.
“The officers had training. The subject had none.”
Mr McCraw, who is leading a state investigation into the law enforcement response, said that Chief Arredondo waited for radios, firearms and keys rather than send officers into the two adjoining classrooms where dying students and teachers were waiting to be saved.
Chief Arredondo has previously said much of the delay was due to him waiting for keys to the classroom door.
This was disputed by Mr McCraw who said that the investigation so far indicates that the door was unlocked but that surveillance footage reveals not a single officer tried the door handle to see if it was open.
Even if the door was locked, law enforcement had access to a crowbar tool within minutes that could have been used to force open the door, he testified.
At a city council meeting on Tuesday night, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin slammed Mr McCraw over his comments, pointing out that several DPS officers were also on the scene that day and that he was trying to direct attention away from his department.
He accused the TDPS chief of continuing to “lie, leak, mislead or misstate information” in order to distance his own department from the bungled response.
Families and community members are growing increasingly frustrated with what they feel is stonewalling from officials in the aftermath of the massacre, as official accounts and timelines are increasingly changing and requests for the release of information have been blocked.