'We Felt Like Cowards': A Police Officer Talks About the Decision to Delay Officer Response to Uvalde Shooting

A police officer at the scene tells PEOPLE about the decision to wait for an hour before charging the school

People sit on the curb outside of Robb Elementary School as State troopers guard the area in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. - An 18-year-old gunman killed 14 children and a teacher at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, according to the state's governor, in the nation's deadliest school shooting in years.

For more than an hour, police officers stood outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, waiting for the signal to burst into a classroom to neutralize a gunman who had opened fire at the school.

When authorities finally shot and killed the 18-year-old gunman, the carnage was staggering: 19 students and two teachers were dead, and more were injured.

Pete Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, stopped at least 19 officers from breaking into the school as the gunman opened fire.

According to Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Arredondo believed that the shooter had barricaded himself in an empty classroom, and that no children were under an active threat.

"From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision," McCraw said in a news conference on Friday. "It was a wrong decision. Period. There was no excuse for that. There were plenty of officers to do what needed to be done, with one exception, is that the incident commander inside believed he needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that time."

A memorial is seen surrounding the Robb Elementary School sign following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School
Robb Elementary School. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

But not all officers agreed with Arredondo's decision. One of the officers who was standing outside the school says that he and his colleagues discussed whether to go into the school anyway.

"There was almost a mutiny," the officer tells PEOPLE. "We were like, 'There's a f---ing gunman in the school, we hear gunshots, and we're just going to stand here with our thumbs up our asses?' We wanted to go in and save lives. It was the most frustrating situation of my entire career."

"We felt like cowards," the officer continues. "It felt cowardly to stand off and let this punk, this kid, this 18-year-old asshole just go in and do whatever he wanted to do. There was a lot of arguing, a lot of cussing, a lot of people who were saying that we should just say f--- it and go in, but then what? We needed to have a plan, and the commander didn't have a plan."

The officer, who has served for more than a decade, wondered why they wouldn't confront a suspect who was barricaded in an empty classroom.

RELATED VIDEO: Authorities Admit 'Wrong Decision' Not to Confront Gunman Sooner During Texas School Shooting

"Even if he had barricaded himself in, he had already shot at people," the officer says, "so why weren't we in there doing what we should've done? I remember thinking 'this is wrong.' But there was nothing I could do."

Now, as the police response comes under scrutiny, the officer worries about the public perception of him and his colleagues.

"It sucks that we look like we were cowards, because we weren't cowards," he says. "But that's nothing compared to the fact that little kids died and maybe we could've done something to save them. I wish we had known what to do. I wish someone had told us what to do."

The school district in Uvalde has opened an official account with First State Bank of Uvalde to support Robb Elementary families affected by the tragedy. People can send checks through the mail (payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund") or donate money through Zelle to robbschoolmemorialfund@gmail.com. People can also donate by calling 830-356-2273.

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