(CNN) — Two active shootings at two elementary schools, both attackers armed with assault rifles and both out to kill. Police in Uvalde, Texas, last May, and in Nashville this week, rushed to respond to 911 calls for gunshots.
But while the Nashville bomber was stopped in a matter of minutes, with six innocent people dead, the siege of Uvalde took more than an hour to end. Nineteen children and two teachers died in Uvalde, although at least three of the victims had survived the initial shooting.
The response in Uvalde was “an absolute failure,” according to Col. Steven McCraw, Texas’ top police officer and director of the state’s Department of Public Safety. In Nashville, it was “a textbook operation by law enforcement executed to perfection,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent and CNN analyst.
Here are the main differences, and some similarities, according to a CNN analysis of body camera recordings of both cases and interviews with investigators after the Uvalde massacre obtained by CNN.
Recordings from body cameras show police rushing to both locations.
In Uvalde, Robb Elementary School was made up of separate buildings connected by hallways. Officers coming from different directions could hear the shots and used them to identify the correct location, entering the westernmost building where the shooter was located. They then tried to address each other on the radios.
In Nashville, a woman who appears to be a staff member of The Covenant School meets one of the first responders, Officer Rex Engelbert, and tells him, “The kids are all locked up. We have two kids we don’t know where they are. “.
Engelbert receives a key, opens the locked front door and, as other agents have already arrived, asks them to form a team: “Give me three, let’s go for three!”, he says. “Come on! I need three!”
In search of the attacker
In Uvalde, the sound of the shots led the school and municipal police officers to the building where the attacker was. Smoke, bullet casings, and broken glass showed the classroom he had entered.
Four officers came up the hallway in one direction and three from the opposite end. As they approached the connecting classrooms, where the attacker had already fired a hundred shots, the bullets tore through the door and receded. No one touched the unlocked door or saw the attacker in the darkened classrooms.
Sirens wailed and emergency lights flashed as Metro Nashville Police Department officers entered The Covenant School building. At first no shots were heard and they began to search room by room. Footage shows one agent opening a door and another leading the way inside, each telling what they find as they dismiss the classrooms and move on.
“Next! Let’s go,” says Engelbert.
Most of the officers were on the first floor when the sound of gunshots brought them upstairs. “Gunshots! Gunshots! Gunshots! Move,” Officer Michael Collazo said. They pass an apparent victim on the ground, but do not stop. “Keep pushing,” you hear. In another part of the building, Engelbert urges his classmates to “go, go, go!” towards the sound of gunshots.
It is a clear difference with Uvalde.
After receiving shots through the door at 11:37 a.m., Uvalde’s officers retreated. One of them began to head towards the key rooms –111 and 112–, but no one followed him. No one appeared to approach the classroom doors again until 12:50 p.m., when a team led by Border Patrol agents stormed in and killed the attacker. There was a breakthrough after the shots were fired in the classroom at 12:21 pm, but no one entered.
Throughout the 73 minutes between 11:37 and 12:50 there was never a crescendo of voices calling for action. Sometimes one agent or another would point out that things were taking too long, but others would point to those they thought were in charge or simply wonder if the attacker was already dead.
And without effective communication between them or with school administrators, there was confusion about whether children and teachers were trapped.
The firepower of both the attackers and those involved in the shootings was similar but, once again, the approach and results differed.
In Uvalde, the agents who intervened realized that the shooter had a high-powered assault rifle, from the bullet casings they saw and the way the shots pierced the drywall. That seemed to unnerve the school district’s then-police chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who called municipal police headquarters and said: “He has an AR-15. He’s shot a bunch of times… He’s in a room I need a lot of firepower, I need this building surrounded, surrounded with as many AR-15s as possible.”
Arredondo was armed with his pistol, but by 11:40 a.m. at the latest, there were officers with rifles at the Robb school. And as more agents arrived, so did more equipment, including the ballistic rifle shield that was eventually used when the team entered the classroom.
The Nashville responders were similarly equipped, wearing their usual body armor, some with helmets and some without. Engelbert carried a rifle, while Collazo only carried his sidearm.
Collazo encouraged those with the most firepower to be the first into the rooms to be cleared: “Rifle first! Rifle first!” But he didn’t hesitate before heading towards the sound of gunshots.
The Nashville shooter was armed with three firearms: a 9mm carbine, a 9mm pistol and an assault rifle.
a critical moment
As Nashville officers converged on the open area where the shooter was located, one of them noticed something vital. “Reloading!” they yelled a split second before Engelbert fired four shots at the suspect.
A reloading shooter is considered a critical opportunity for the responders, as the attacker is locked in and unable to shoot.
Arredondo told those who are investigating what happened in Uvalde that he thought he heard the shooter reload at least once, maybe twice, while he was shouting to try to negotiate. No action was taken at that time to enter the classrooms.
None of the responding officers in Uvalde saw the gunman until they entered room 111 and he came out of a supply closet shooting at them, killing him. The blinds were down and the lights in the classrooms were off. The entrance doors to the classrooms had narrow glass windows, but officers reported that they could not see through them.
Running into an upstairs atrium, the Nashville officers ran into the shooter alone, seconds after gunshots rang out and were accurate. Engelbert fired four shots and Collazo fired four more times before they confirmed the shooter was down.
Another notable difference between the two responses is simply the disclosure of the body camera videos.
All material related to the Robb school response has been kept secret by order of local prosecutor Christina Mitchell Busbee. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin went against the prosecutor and released the videos of Uvalde police officers under his jurisdiction weeks after the attack. CNN has obtained and reported on many more recordings and what they show, but they remain hidden from the public.
Nashville police released body camera recordings of the two officers who killed the suspect less than 24 hours later.
Source: CNN Espanol