A teacher wounded in last month’s school shooting in Texas slammed first responders as “cowards” for standing by outside his classroom while the gunman killed all 11 of his young students as they tried to play dead.
“You have a bulletproof vest, I had nothing. You’re supposed to protect and serve. There is no excuse for their actions and I will never forgive them. I will never forgive them,” Arnulfo Reyes said in an interview with “Good Morning America” Tuesday from a hospital, where he’s recovering from multiple gunshot wounds.
The Robb Elementary School teacher said his class was watching a movie following a student awards ceremony around 11:30 a.m. on May 24 when they heard gunshots. He directed the kids to get under a table, just as they were trained, and told them to “act like you’re asleep.”
When he turned around, he said the gunman was standing in his classroom and shot him several times.
“I told myself, I told my kids to act like they’re asleep, so I’m going to act like I’m asleep also,” he said of an ordeal that would last roughly 80 minutes. “And I prayed and prayed that I would not hear none of my students talk.”
The gunman killed 19 students — including every child in Reyes’ classroom — and two teachers during the rampage.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has said that several officers entered the school building minutes after the killer, but they were met with gunfire and retreated. The school police chief made “the wrong decision” to delay confronting the shooter, the public safety director said, even though more than a dozen officers stood outside the classroom while the slaughter continued.
After waiting more than an hour in the school building hallway, an ad-hoc team of officers defied the command to stand by and stormed the classroom, killing the gunman.
Reyes said he heard a student in a next-door classroom cry out for help after officers first entered the building and then left. Though the cops apparently didn’t hear the girl, the gunman did. Reyes said he could hear him walk to where the child lay and fire his gun again.
A fourth-grader who survived the shooting said in an earlier interview that his classmate was fatally shot after she cried “help” when officers asked the kids to yell if they needed assistance.
Reyes, crying, expressed regret that he couldn’t have done more to save his students, but said they were helpless.
“We set them up to be like ducks,” he said.
In a message aimed at students’ parents, he said: “I’m sorry. I tried my best. Please don’t be angry with me.”
He vowed to advocate for raising the age limit to purchase an AR-style rifle like the one used in the attack. The killer legally purchased two of the assault-style weapons days after his 18th birthday.
“I will go to the end of the world to make sure that things get changed,” Reyes said.