Jacob Albarado, an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, was one of the many officers who rushed to the scene of the Uvalde school massacre last week, in his case, after receiving a terrifying text from his wife.
Albarado was at a barbershop when he received harrowing messages from his wife, Trisha, about a gunman at Robb Elementary School, where she teaches fourth grade.
“There’s an active shooter. help. love you,” his wife wrote.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the May 24 massacre, just days before the final day of the school year.
While police officers were quick to arrive at the scene of the shooting, they have faced mounting scrutiny over the decision to wait an hour for backup instead of moving in on the shooter. And while frantic parents had urged officers to storm the school or let them rescue their own children that day, Albarado took it upon himself to do both.
The off-duty CBP agent was at Robb Elementary earlier in the day for an award ceremony for his daughter Jada, 8, a second grader. He recalled how he jumped into action to return there, this time armed with a gun.
“I went inside the barbershop, sat down and then I can’t recall if (the barber) received the text first or if I received it that there’s an active shooter,” Albarado said on NBC’s “TODAY” show Tuesday.
After receiving the text from his wife, “I looked for a gun, my barber said he had a gun, both of us raced over to the school and met up there.”
When he arrived, he just saw “chaos” with officers already on the scene.
“I was just trying to get towards my wife’s room and my daughter’s room,” Albarado said.
Albarado explained that he was allowed to go in and offer a helping hand because he knew officers responding to the shooting.
“It’s a small community. My wife works at Robb, everyone at Robb knows me. Pretty much, all local law enforcement knows me or I know the majority of them, so I was able to go in and I announced who I was and made my way through,” he said.
“As I was going in, I could just see kids coming out the windows, kids coming my way. So I was helping all the kids out,” he said, all while trying to contact his wife.
“My wife finally texts me or calls me saying she was across the street at a funeral home. After that, my next thing was to go get my daughter,” he continued.
He noted that he didn’t hear gunshots at the scene and wasn’t initially sure if the gunman was still at the school or not.
Albarado recalled seeing police breaking windows of classrooms and kids jumping out to head to safety at the nearby funeral home.
Asked if he saw police poised outside the door where the gunman was, Albarado said he did.
“At one point, I was there at the door fixing to go in, but once again I didn’t have any of my gear. It wouldn’t have been a smart move for me. All those guys had their gear and stuff so like I said, I pulled back.”
Finally he found his daughter, a moment he called “a big relief.”
He said he later learned that his wife and her students hid under desks and his daughter took shelter in a locked bathroom.
But even then his sense of duty did not falter. He worked with other officers, two with their guns drawn to provide cover, to clear out classrooms.
“I cleared out all the rooms there. Saw (my daughter’s) friends there,” he said. “All her friends, I could just see their faces, half of them fine, half of them panicking, crying. I was just trying to keep them as calm as I could as they were evacuating.”
The school shooting has led to intense scrutiny into the law enforcement response as it took over an hour to breach the classroom area where the shooter was and kill him — a move Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw admitted Friday was “the wrong decision.”
During the same press conference, McGraw denied accusations that some police may have entered the school during the active shooter situation to rescue their own children. Asked whether that happened, he said he was not aware of that happening. Albarado was off-duty when he entered the school to rescue his wife and daughter.
On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced a critical incident review into the law enforcement response to the mass shooting.
Albarado said he believes officers were doing the best they could.
“I believe everyone there was doing the best they could given the circumstances. I believe everyone there was doing everything in their power,” he said.
Albarado, who was born and raised in Uvalde, said now his community is going through the difficult chapter of grieving and his wife, who he said is “extremely affected” by the massacre, is scheduled to attend funerals for the lives lost in the coming days.
“They’re suffering. They’re trying their best to get through but it’s hard. Everyone knows everyone there,” Albarado said.