Uvalde school shooting: Texas DPS ‘failed’ Uvalde in its response, director says, as families call for resignation
Facing calls for his resignation Thursday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw did not resign, saying at a meeting of the agency’s oversight board that his officers “did not fail the community” of Uvalde during the May mass shooting that killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers.
“If DPS as an institution has failed the families, failed the school or the community of Uvalda, then absolutely I have to go,” McCraw said at Thursday’s Texas Public Safety Commission meeting. “But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution has not failed the community at this point, plain and simple.”
McCraw’s comments, which came moments after several victims’ families called for him to resign, followed seven DPS officers being placed under investigation by the agency’s inspector general for what they did — or didn’t do — while the gunman killed 21 people in Rob Osnovo u the worst school shooting in the US in almost a decade.
While close to 400 DPS officers and 22 other agencies responded on May 24 to the Uvalde campus starting within minutes of the first shots, police waited 77 minutes – violating the usual active shooter protocol and training – before raiding neighboring classrooms to find victims and kill the 18-year-old gunman.
“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his friends and his teachers were killed,” said Brett Cross, who was helping raise his 10-year-old nephew. Uziyah Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting.
But as the clock ticks down, Cross said, “A few numbers remain the same: 77 minutes, 91 of you all police officers waited outside while our children were slaughtered.
“We are not waiting any longer. Our families, our community, our country have waited long enough. And playing politics will only endanger the lives of more Texans,” Cross said, adding, “I expect … your resignation immediately.”
Cross repeated his call for McCraw to resign — or be fired by the governor — on “Anderson Cooper 360°.”
“He just refuses to do what’s right, and it’s, it’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How can we trust, you know, as Texans, these officers of his when he’s set the bar to kill children as a failure.”
McCraw, who previously vowed to “submit (his) resignation to the governor” if his department is found guilty, did not provide further details about an internal review of his agency’s response, only reiterating that any DPS officer on the scene would estimated.
One officer, McCraw said, resigned while under investigation and is not eligible to return to the department, while another person is “currently in the process of being fired.”
But while McCraw acknowledged Thursday that his agency was not without fault — acknowledging that its officers were on the scene within minutes of the shooting — he did not immediately offer to resign.
Thursday’s session began with a public comment period, with five minutes per speaker, starting with state Sen. Rolando Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde and said calls for McCraw’s resignation were warranted.
Pointing not only to mistakes made by officers on the day of the shooting, but also to a series of false information released by DPS in the weeks since, Gutierrez said the shooting has “shattered” the belief of Texans “that we can trust the word and actions of law enforcement — especially Department of Public Safety.”
In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group formed by some of the victims’ loved ones, expressed disappointment with Thursday’s meeting, saying it fell short of their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised an update on their investigation into the Robb Elementary School shooting. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, as a bait and switch, they hosted a famous press conference and once again refused to accept responsibility for their failures.”
“We will not allow the Department to co-opt our grief and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a true updated investigation and to host it in the community affected by this tragic event,” the statement said.
Cross told CNN the meeting was ridiculous and, “I’m upset that DPS continues to waste our time. … They don’t tell us anything.”
The meeting comes as the scourge of school shootings in the US shows no sign of abating, with at least 67 such attacks reported on US campuses this year, involving a high school student and a teacher killed on Monday in St. Louis.
McCraw’s remarks did little to assuage the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom addressed the director before the meeting adjourned briefly and moved on to other business.
Cross pressed the director on his comments stating he would resign if DPS was found guilty, asking McCraw, “So your officers were there in 10 minutes. Right?”
“Yes,” McCraw said.
“Aren’t they representatives of your department?” Cross continued.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“So they didn’t make it?” Cross asked.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“So DPS failed, so there’s blame,” Cross said. “So if you’re a man of your word, then you’d back off.”
Thursday’s meeting marked McCraw’s first public testimony about the Uvalde bloodshed since June when, before a state Senate committee, he marked shooting response “absolute failure” — but mostly blamed local and school district police, including that agency’s chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who state authorities said was the mastermind behind the incident.
Arredondo, who denied being in that role, was fired in August — a move his lawyer called an “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding that Arredondo should be reinstated, with all back pay and benefits.
Arredondo was one of five school district officers at Robb Elementary School, while DPS had 91 officers respond to the shooting — the most other than the U.S. Border Patrol, according to July report by the investigative committee of the state House of Representatives.
The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the response to the tragedy, starting with its own the initial story about it debunked within days of the bloodshed and spread when dashcam footage revealed to CNN that a DPS officer had arrived at Robb Elementary School sooner than agency heads would admit public.
Afterwards internal stock review of every DPS officer on the scene, seven were referred by the agency for investigation by the agency’s inspector general.
Among them is State Police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to delay the team of officers from entering the classrooms, telling investigators he thought a more skilled crew was on the way, CNN reported.
Also involved was Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell, who sources said told investigators he was focused on providing his superiors with updates and did not discuss breach options classrooms. He is seen on surveillance and body camera footage talking on the phone and, at one point, apparently offering to negotiate with the attacker.
McCraw condemned similar attempts at negotiations by Arredondo, calling it a “wrong decision.”
Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado has been served with termination papers, DPS said Friday, with sources confirming to CNN that his firing the result of its role in the response the day of the shooting.
And former DPS trooper Crimson Elizondo took a job with the school district’s police force this summer, but was fired after CNN revealed she was among those under investigation.
Each of these officials either declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.
The Public Safety Commission it now includes four members – all appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Many of Uvalde’s victims’ families, meanwhile, campaigned for Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic rival, who invoked Uvalde’s response to argue that the governor’s term should end.
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