It’s not unusual: Customs and Border Protection officials can operate within 100 miles of a US border, and have a major presence in many border communities, said Javed Ali, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and a former top official at the Department of Homeland Security.
Uvalde is about 80 miles from the Mexican border and therefore within Customs and Border Protection jurisdiction.
Authorities are still gathering details on the timeline of events leading up to the massacre, but have determined members of the Border Patrol’s elite team — the Border Patrol Tactical Unit — fatally shot the gunman nearly an hour after the shooter raided the school.
Border Patrol is under the umbrella of Customs and Border Protection, in the Department of Homeland Security.
The teenage gunman came out of a classroom closet and began firing when Border Patrol agents entered the room more than an hour after the shooter began his rampage, a source familiar with the situation told CNN Friday. The agents were part of a team that fatally shot the gunman, ending an attack that left 19 fourth-graders and two adults dead Tuesday afternoon.
The US Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) was formed in 1984.
It has since evolved into a highly trained tactical unit with operations both nationally and internationally.
It’s the equivalent of a SWAT
It’s now considered the global special response team for the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Ali compared it to elite Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, the militarylike units within US police forces, using specialized or military equipment.
It’s been part of high-profile operations in the US
BORTAC has played a key role in major US operations.
Customs and Border Protection has a local office in Uvalde
Like many Texas towns in the border area, CBD has a checkpoint in Uvalde. It oversees 3,000 square miles of South Texas and conducts traffic checkpoint and freight train check operations. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorka said some of the agency’s officials live in Uvalde and surrounding communities.
It provides a supporting role
In incidents like the one Tuesday, where local authorities are in command of the scene, Border officials often serves in a support role and the agency on command will dictate what they do, a source told CNN, adding they try not to overrule the authorities.
While the team would defer to the local command, if they felt there was a need to they could override it. There is no indication yet it occurred at the school this week.
When US Border Patrol agents who belong to the specialized unit responded to the school around 12:15 p.m., the officer in charge had already made the determination it was a barricaded subject situation, according to a source familiar with the situation.
“They showed up from where they were and put together the operation hastily,” the source added. “Some of the officers came from the field … and some who were off duty also sped in to respond.”
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.