A mother who bravely entered Uvalde, Texas’ Robb Elementary School to save her children says she is now being harassed by local police officers.
Angeli Rose Gomez told San Antonio News 4 that she took matters into her own hands during last month’s school shooting massacre that left 19 children and two adults dead.
Gomez said she rushed to the school when she heard an active shooter was on the property. She could hear gunshots and children screaming as she came face-to-face with officers standing outside the school doors. The officers told her she could not enter the school and momentarily put her in handcuffs as she tried to enter the school.
After convincing them that she would calm down they released her from the cuffs, she said.
That’s when she saw an opportunity. She told the news outlet she jumped a nearby fence and began banging on a door window, motioning to her eldest son’s teacher, who she could see inside the school.
Gomez told her, “You already have a gateway out, so you might as well just come out. Like if I’m going to run out with him, y’all just come on too.”
Once inside the building she was able to collect her oldest son and some of his classmates, ushering them out of the school. She then went back to the door of her youngest son’s classroom.
“At this moment, I’m jiggling the handle and I’m going pretty nuts like trying to get the door open and it’s not gonna open, so I stand back and the cops are already on me and they’re like, ‘Ma’am, calm down!'” she recounted to KATU News.
She said she told police she wouldn’t leave the hallway until they began evacuating the classroom.
“Immediately, they start evacuating that classroom and my son runs out to me and he’s like, ‘Mom, mom!'”
Since the harrowing incident, her lawyer says Gomez has been the target of harassment and hostility by some of the officers on the Uvalde force.
“As far as we know there’s two definite instances,” Mark Di Carlo told HuffPost, saying his client was recently pulled over at a traffic stop and falsely accused of having illegal immigrants in her car. Di Carlo says police also parked outside her home for 45 minutes and flashed their car lights at her and her mother when they went for a walk.
Uvalde’s officers have been the subject of much criticism for how they conducted themselves on the day of the shooting. Texas’s public safety Chief Steve McCraw said officers waited more than 70 minutes before storming the school and killing the shooter — something he described as an “abject failure.”
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said during a Texas senate committee hearing last week, pointing much of the blame at school district police Chief Pete Arredondo.
“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,” McCraw said.
“One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds — that is how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued.”
The May 24 attack at Robb Elementary School is the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade, and for three days police offered a confusing and sometimes contradictory timeline that drew public anger and frustration.
Authorities now acknowledge that students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while the police chief told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said he believed that the suspect was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms and that there was no longer an active attack.
The chief’s decision — and the officers’ apparent willingness to follow his directives against established active-shooter protocols — prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, and who should be held responsible.
Di Carlo told HuffPost he wrote to the Uvalde Police Department about what happened, but has not received a response. The police have not publicly commented about Gomez’s allegations.
An emotional Gomez told CBS News she thinks the officers’ delayed response cost innocent children their lives.
“They could have saved many more lives,” Gomez said in an interview earlier this month. “They could have gone into the classroom, and maybe two or three would have been gone, but they could have saved the whole, more, the whole class. They could have done something — gone through the window, sniped him through the window. Something, but nothing was being done.”
Last week, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s Superintendent Hal Harrell confirmed that Arredondo has been put on administrative leave, citing still-unanswered questions about what happened that day.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date.”
— With files from Global News’ Kathryn Mannie
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.