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



CNN

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw has not resigned, saying at a meeting of the agency’s oversight board Thursday that his officers “failed. community” Uvalde during the mass shooting that took place in May, during which 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed.

“If DPS as an institution is failing families, the school or the Uvalde community, I absolutely need to go,” McCraw said at a hearing of the Texas Public Safety Commission. “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 his resignation, followed the submission of seven DPS officers to the agency’s inspector general’s investigation into what they did (or didn’t do) when a gunman killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School. the worst US school shooting in nearly a decade.

Nearly 400 officers from DPS and 22 other agencies on May 24. responded to the Uvalde campus just minutes after the first shots were fired, law enforcement waited 77 minutes, violating normal active shooter protocol and training, before entering adjacent classrooms to find the victims. and killed the 18-year-old assailant.

McCraw had previously vowed to “offer (his) resignation to the governor” if his department was found guilty of the shooting.

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

But while the clock is ticking, Cross said, “A few numbers remain the same: 91 of you officers waited outside for 77 minutes while our children were being slaughtered.

“We are not waiting any longer. Our families, our community, our country have waited long enough. And playing politics will only put more Texans’ lives at risk,” Cross said, adding, “I expect … your immediate resignation.”

Cross repeated 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 the way it is, it’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How are we as Texans supposed to trust these officers of his when he set the bar for killing children because it’s not a failure.”

After the Board of Supervisors meeting, a prominent Texas newspaper also called for McCraw to resign or be fired.

“Within a few days after May 24 After the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, confronted by Uvalde parents on Thursday, made a strong case for his resignation or firing, the San Antonio Express said. Wrote the news.

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

The article describes how family members of the victims reminded McCraw that he told CNN in September that he would resign if the troops were “guilty” of the delayed response to the incident.

McCraw did not elaborate Thursday on his agency’s internal review of the response, only to reiterate that every DPS officer on the scene will be evaluated.

McCraw said one officer resigned pending the investigation and is not eligible to return to the department, while another is “currently in the process of termination.”

But while McCraw acknowledged Thursday that his agency was not without blame — acknowledging that its officers were on the scene within minutes of the shooting — he did not immediately offer to resign.

Thursday’s hearing began with a public comment period, after five minutes per speaker, starting with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde and said calls for McCraw’s resignation are valid.

Citing not only the officers’ mistakes on the day of the shooting, but a cascade of false information released by DPS over the course of several weeks, Gutierrez said the shooting has “destroyed” Texans’ belief that “we can trust the word and the actions of law enforcement. – especially the Department of Public Safety.

In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group formed by relatives of some of the victims, expressed disappointment with Thursday’s meeting, saying it did not live up to their expectations.

“Today, the Department of Public Safety pledged to reopen the investigation into the shooting at Robb Elementary School. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, with a glorious press conference, they once again refused to take responsibility for their failures.”

“We will not allow the Department to be complicit in our grief and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a true update of their investigation and conduct it in the community affected by this tragic event,” the statement said.

Cross told CNN that 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 U.S. school shootings shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 such attacks reported on U.S. campuses this year, including the killing of a high school student and teacher in St. Louis on Monday.

McCraw’s remarks did little to quell the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom approached the director before the meeting briefly adjourned and we moved on.

Cross pressed the principal on his comments, saying he would resign if DPS was found guilty, and asked McCraw, “So your officers were there in 10 minutes. Right?”

“Yes,” McCraw said.

“Aren’t they representatives of your department?” The cross continued.

“Absolutely,” McCraw said.

– That’s why they failed? Cross asked.

“Absolutely,” McCraw said.

“That’s why DPS failed, that’s why there’s blame,” Cross said. “Therefore, if you are a man of your word, you would retire.

In Thursday’s hearing, McCraw testified publicly about the bloodshed in Uvalde for the first time since June, when he described the response to the shooting as an “entity failure” before a state Senate committee, but placed much of the blame on local and school district police, including the agency’s chief, Pedro. Pete” Arredondo, who state authorities say was the ringleader of the incident.

Arredondo, who has denied playing that role, was fired in August, and his attorney called the move an “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding that Arredondo should be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.

Arredondo was one of five Robb Elementary school district officers and 91 DPS personnel to respond to the shooting — the most outside the U.S. Border Patrol, according to a state House Investigative Committee report in July.

The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the response to the tragedy, beginning when its initial story emerged in the days after the bloodshed and expanding when body camera footage revealed to CNN that a DPS trooper arrived at Robb Elementary before agency managers. acknowledged publicly.

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

Among them is state police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to prevent a team of officers from entering the classrooms, telling investigators he believed more skilled teams were on the way, CNN reported.

Also included is Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindel, who sources said told investigators he focused on providing updates to his superiors and did not discuss opportunities to break into classrooms. He is seen on CCTV and body camera footage talking on the phone and apparently offering to negotiate with the attacker at one point.

McCraw condemned similar attempts by Arredondo to negotiate, calling it a “misguided decision.”

Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado was served with termination papers, DPS said Friday, and sources confirmed to CNN that his firing stemmed from his role in the response the day of the shooting.

Former DPS trooper Crimson Elizondo joined the school district’s police force this summer, but was fired after CNN revealed she was among those under investigation.

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

The Public Safety Commission now consists of four members, all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Meanwhile, many of the families of Uvalde’s victims campaigned for Beth O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger, who relied on Uvalde’s response to argue that the governor’s term should end.

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