UVALDE, Texas — The grief of families in Uvalde, Texas, was compounded by anger and frustration on Thursday as police leaders struggled to answer questions about the horrific hour it took to halt a gunman who opened fire on students and teachers inside Robb Elementary School.
As parents began making funeral arrangements — on a day that was meant to mark the last of the school year — criticism deepened in the majority-Hispanic ranching community of 15,200 over the protracted police response, and the failure of officials to adequately explain their actions.
No school police officer confronted the gunman before he went into the school, a state police spokesman said on Thursday, contradicting earlier reports of an encounter outside, and suggesting a shortfall in the response.
“He walked in unobstructed initially,” Victor Escalon, a regional director for the state’s Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference. “He was not confronted by anybody.”
Parents had massed outside the school on Tuesday as gunfire erupted inside, urging the police who were holding them at bay to go in and stop the carnage. On Thursday, focus shifted for some lawmakers in Texas and in Washington from debates over the weapon the 18-year-old gunman had used, an AR-15-style rifle, to questions about the hourlong delay in bringing the rampage to an end. Most mass shootings are over within minutes, policing experts said.
“I’m calling on the F.B.I. to use their maximum authority to investigate and provide a full report,” said Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio.
Chief Daniel Rodriguez of the Uvalde Police Department and the head of the school district police, Chief Pete Arredondo, did not respond to requests for comment.
The first report of a gunman approaching the school came around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Moments before, the gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, 18, had crashed a pickup truck in a ditch by the school after having shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face in her home, just a few streets from the school.
Albert Vargas, 62, an electrician, was at work in a house near Robb Elementary School and said he saw the crash.
“I ran down there thinking someone got hurt,” he said. Then he saw that the driver was carrying a rifle. “His look matched the black clothes he was wearing,” Mr. Vargas said. He fired briefly at a nearby funeral home, he said. “And then he turns to me and popped two more rounds at close range, but misses, as well,” Mr. Vargas recalled.
“His face was blank. There was no expression there,” he said. “He looked like nothing mattered but the mission he was on. He fired the shots, ran, jumped a fence and headed towards the school.”
An armed Uvalde school district officer, who had been nearby, responded to reports that a driver involved in a crash had exited his vehicle with a gun. The officer could not see anyone when he arrived, according to a state police official, but then heard gunshots as the gunman began firing at the windows and entered the…