A man who taught 11 of the children killed in last month’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and was himself critically wounded, condemned the botched law enforcement response, calling local police “cowards” in an interview Tuesday.
Anfulo Reyes, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Robb Elementary, described the events that unfolded in his classroom on the day of the shooting in an interview with ABC News. Reyes was shot multiple times, with the second volley piercing his lung. Reyes has thus far required five surgeries and two blood transfusions, and gave the interview while hospitalized. He criticized the Uvalde police for not responding sooner.
“They’re cowards,” Reyes said. “They sit there and did nothing for our community. They took a long time to go in. … I will never forgive them.”
“You had a bulletproof vest. I had nothing.”
Reyes began the day of May 24 in good spirits: finals had concluded, an award ceremony was planned, and Reyes planned to show his students a movie — an animated version of “The Addams Family.”
“It was going to be a good day,” Reyes told ABC. “There was nothing unusual that day; we were just walking back to the classroom … to watch the rest of the movie.”
At 11:30 a.m., Reyes heard a bang, which he suspected might have been a gunshot. He told his students to lie down and take cover under the desks “just like they practiced”; the school had conducted active shooter drills as recently as March.
“The kids were yelling, ‘What’s going on, Mr. Reyes?’” he said. “[The students] were going under the table, and I was trying to get them to do that as fast as I could.”
“When I turned around,” he said, “I just saw him.”
Reports of the massacre initially claimed that the shooter entered the building through an open door, but later investigation revealed that the door was closed, but the latch that automatically locked the door was broken. Reyes had previously raised the issue with the school. “I would tell my principal, ‘Hey, I’m going to get in trouble again, they’re going to come and tell you that I left my door unlocked, which I didn’t,’” he said. “But the latch was stuck. So, it was just an easy fix.”
Law enforcement did not enter the building and neutralize the shooter until 77 minutes later, after 19 students and 2 teachers had been killed, including 11 in Reyes’ classroom.
Reyes ordered his students to pretend they were asleep and was shot moments after seeing the shooter, losing sensation in his arm. Immediately afterward, the shooter unloaded indiscriminately into the classroom.
“I prayed that I wouldn’t hear none of my students talk,” he said. “And I didn’t hear talk for a while. But then, later on, he did shoot again. So, if he didn’t get them the first time, he got them the second time.”
Reyes claimed to have heard police approaching three times over the course of his ordeal, but that they never entered the hallway to his classroom.
“One of the students from the next-door classroom was saying, ‘Officer, we’re in here. We’re in here’…But the [police] had already left,” he said.
“And then [the gunman] got up from behind my desk and he walked over there, and he shot again.”
Reyes pretended to be unconscious, as he told his students to, but was shot again anyway, “Just to make sure that I was dead.”
“I had no concept of time,” Reyes said. “When things go bad, it seems like eternity. The only thing that I can say is I felt like my blood was like an hourglass.”
Outside, parents and concerned citizens were cajoling the police to enter the building, but it wasn’t until 12:50 p.m. that a tactical unit of Border Patrol breached the classroom and eliminated the shooter.
“After that it was just bullets everywhere,” he said. “And then I just remember Border Patrol saying, ‘Get up, get out,’ and I couldn’t get up.”
Reyes argued that there were multiple failures in the implementation of the school’s safety plan, but reserved most of his criticisms for lawmakers and police. “No training would ever prepare anybody for this.”
The Uvalde police have come under intense scrutiny for treating the active shooter situation as a barricaded subject scenario, and many observers have condemned their slow response time.
“The only thing that I know is that I won’t let these children and my co-workers die in vain,” he said. “I will go to the end of the world to make sure things get changed. If that’s what I have to do for the rest of my life, I will do it.”