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The story about how the Uvalde gunman entered the school is shifting

Balloons and caution tape are seen at the entrance to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. Investigators had initially said a teacher left a back door propped open at the school, but that account has now shifted.
Brandon Bell
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Balloons and caution tape are seen at the entrance to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. Investigators had initially said a teacher left a back door propped open at the school, but that account has now shifted.

Texas officials had said a teacher propped a door open at Robb Elementary in Uvalde just before the gunman entered and carried out a mass shooting — but they now acknowledge that the woman closed the door, after the teacher's attorney spoke out.

It's the latest shift in a narrative that has continued to change since last Tuesday — an extraordinary process that has seen officials repeatedly correcting earlier statements, after they're contradicted by new information.

A teacher didn't leave the school door propped open

The most detailed official timeline of the shooting emerged on Friday, when Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw told journalists that the gunman entered Robb Elementary through a back door that a teacher had left propped open. Moments earlier, he said, the teacher had been using the door to get her cellphone.

But that version of events was clarified on Tuesday. The teacher's lawyer told the San Antonio Express-News that the teacher had kicked a rock away from the push-bar door and pulled it shut after recognizing the danger of the situation. She thought it would automatically lock — but it didn't, her lawyer said.

Attorney Don Flanary told the Express-News that the teacher, who hasn't been named publicly, used a rock to prop open the door while she briefly left the building to bring food from the parking lot to the school just before lunch last Tuesday. She then saw Salvador Ramos crash his truck in a ditch near the school, Flanary said, and went inside to get her phone and call 911.

The teacher was on the phone with the emergency service when she emerged again from the school and was confronted with a frightening shift in the circumstances, as the truck's driver approached the school with a rifle.

"The funeral people next door are yelling, 'He's got a gun,'" Flanary told NPR on Wednesday. "And then she looks over and sees him throw a backpack over the fence and then sees him with the [AR-15-style rifle] slung over his shoulder, sees him hop the fence and start running towards her. So she immediately ran back inside, kicked the rock out and slammed the door."

The teacher, who has a grandson who attends Robb, told the 911 operator that the gunman was firing. When she closed the door, she thought it would lock itself. It didn't.

The attack left the teacher traumatized and shaking, Flanary said, noting that she had heard the gunman firing outside the school, then inside — and did her best to find a place to hide. She wound up across the hall from where the gunman cornered children and teachers.

She decided to go public with her account, Flanary said, after McCraw said the teacher had left the outer door open. When she contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety about that statement, Flanary said, the agency confirmed that video clearly showed her kicking the rock out of the way and slamming the door.

Texas officials confirm that the teacher shut the door

After the teacher's account emerged, the Texas DPS confirmed the essential details in her lawyer's statement.

"We did verify she closed the door," Travis Considine, chief communications officer for Texas DPS, told The Associated Press. He added that the door should have locked when it closed, but it didn't: "The door did not lock. We know that much and now investigators are looking into why it did not lock."

The method the gunman used to bring a powerful rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the school is a key detail that reverberates far beyond Uvalde, as other schools look at how they can prevent similar attacks. For the same reason, the police response is also being closely scrutinized.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Laura Benshoff
Laura Benshoff is a reporter covering energy and climate for NPR's National desk. Prior to this assignment, she spent eight years at WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR Member station. There, she most recently focused on the economy and immigration. She has reported on the causes of the Great Resignation, Afghans left behind after the U.S. troop withdrawal and how a government-backed rent-to-own housing program failed its tenants. Other highlights from her time at WHYY include exploring the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election cycle through changing communities in central Pennsylvania and covering comedian Bill Cosby's criminal trials.