Uvalde school shooting: Texas DPS ‘did not fail’ Uvalde in its response, director says, as families demand he resign



CNN

In the face of calls to resign by victims’ relatives and major newspapers, Texas Public Safety Director Colonel Steven McCraw did not back down, saying at a meeting of the agency’s oversight board Thursday that his officers “did not fail the community” of Uvalde during the May mass shooting in which 19 fourth-graders and two the teacher was killed.

“If DPS as an agency fails the family, fails the school, or fails the Uvalde community, then absolutely, I have to go,” McCraw said at the Texas Public Safety Commission meeting. “But I can tell you now: DPS as an institution today has not failed the community, plain and simple.”

McCraw’s comments, which came shortly after several victims’ families demanded his resignation, followed the referral of seven DPS officers to an investigation by the agency’s inspector general into what they did — or didn’t do — when a gunman killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School in the worst U.S. school shooting. in almost a decade.

While almost 400 officers from the DPS and 22 other agencies responded on May 24 to the Uvalde campus starting within minutes of the first gunshots, law enforcement waited 77 minutes – in violation of the active shooting protocol commonly held and practiced – before breaching adjoining classes to find the victim. and killed the 18-year-old gunman.

McCraw had previously vowed to “softly (his) resignation to the governor” if his department was found to have any culpability related to the shooting.

“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his classmate and his teacher were killed,” said Brett Cross, who helped raise her 10-year-old son Uziyah Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting.

But as the clock continued to tick, Cross said, “Some numbers remain the same: It’s 77 minutes that 91 of your officers are all waiting outside while our children are being slaughtered.

“We’re not waiting any longer. Our families, our communities, our country have waited long enough. And playing politics will only endanger the lives of more Texans,” Cross said, adding, “I expect … your immediate resignation.”

Cross reiterated his call for McCraw to resign — or be fired by the governor — on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.”

“He just refuses to do what’s right, and that’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How are we supposed to believe, you know, as Texans, these officers when he sets the bar in the children killed as not failing.”

After the supervisory board session, a prominent Texas newspaper also called for McCraw’s resignation or firing.

“In the days since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, confronted Thursday by the parents of Uvalde, has built a rock-solid case for his resignation or firing,” the San Antonio Express-News wrote.

“McCraw needs to resign. And if he doesn’t, Abbott needs to fire him.

The article describes how family members of the victims reminded McCraw that he had told CNN in September that he would resign if the troopers had “anything to do” in their delayed response to the incident.

McCraw on Thursday did not provide further details about his agency’s internal review of the response, only confirming that every DPS officer on the scene will be evaluated.

One officer, McCraw said, has resigned while under investigation and is ineligible to return to duty, while another person is “in the process of termination right now.”

However, while McCraw admitted Thursday that his agency was not without fault – acknowledging that officers were on the scene within minutes of the shooting starting – he did not immediately offer to resign.

Thursday’s session began with a public comment period, with five minutes per speaker, starting with the situation of Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represented Uvalde and said the call for McCraw’s resignation is warranted.

Pointing out not only the officers’ mistakes on the day of the shooting, but the cascade of false information DPS released in the weeks that followed, Gutierrez said the shooting “damaged” the confidence of Texans “we can trust the words and actions of law enforcement. – especially the Department of Public Safety.

In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group formed by several victims’ loved ones, expressed disappointment about Thursday’s meeting, pointing out that it was unexpected.

“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised an update on their investigation into the shooting at Robb Elementary School. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, in a bait and switch, they held a glorified press conference and once again refused to take responsibility for their failure. ”

“We will not allow the Department to choose our grief, and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Security and the Commission to give a real update on their investigation, and to be organized in the communities affected by this tragic event,” he said.

Cross told CNN that the meeting was ridiculous and, “I’m upset that DPS continues to waste our time. … They’re not saying anything to us.”

The meeting comes as the scourge of US school shootings shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 such attacks reported this year on US campuses, including a high school student and teacher killed Monday in St.

McCraw’s comments did little to quell the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom told the director before the meeting to take a short recess and move on to other business.

Cross pressed the director on his comments saying he would resign if DPS was blamed, 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 failed?” Cross asked.

“Absolutely,” McCraw said.

“Therefore, DPS failed, therefore, there is culpability,” said Cross. “Therefore, if you are a man of words, then you will retire.”

Thursday’s meeting marked McCraw’s first public testimony about the bloodshed in Uvalde since June when, before a state Senate committee, he labeled the response to the shooting a “disgraceful failure” – but placed much of the blame on local and school district police, including the head of the agency Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who state authorities said was the incident commander.

Arredondo, who has denied him in that role, was fired in August – a move his lawyer called “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding 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 personnel respond to the shooting – most except the US Border Patrol, according to a July report by the state House investigative committee.

The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the response to the tragedy, beginning as its initial narrative about it unraveled in the days of bloodshed and expanding when body camera footage revealed to CNN that DPS troopers arrived at Robb Elementary School earlier than agency leaders. will admit the public.

After an internal review of the actions of each DPS officer at the scene, seven were referred by the agency for investigation by the agency’s inspector general.

Among them was state police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to delay a team of officers from entering the classroom, telling investigators that he thought a more skilled team was on its way, CNN reported.

It also includes Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell, whose source said he told investigators he was focused on providing his boss with updates and did not discuss the option to breach the classroom. He was seen on footage from surveillance cameras and body cameras talking on the phone and, at one point, apparently offering to negotiate with the gunman.

McCraw has criticized a similar attempt at negotiations by Arredondo, calling it “a bad decision.”

Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado, served with termination papers, DPS said Friday, with a source confirming to CNN that his firing was the result of his role in the response day of the shooting.

And former DPS trooper Crimson Elizondo took a job this summer with the school district’s police force, but was fired after CNN revealed he was among those under investigation.

Each of these officials has declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.

The Public Safety Commission currently includes four members — all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Many of Uvalde’s victims’ families, meanwhile, have campaigned for Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic rival who questioned Uvalde’s response in arguing that the governor’s term should end.

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