Uvalde school shooting police are investigating their behavior

One day after a Texas House report found that systemic failures caused law enforcement’s sloppy response to the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, state and local authorities pushed their own internal investigations to determine what their individual agents and officers did. did and did not during the May 24 massacre.

Governor Greg Abbott (right) called the findings ‘beyond disturbing’ and said they needed to trigger ‘critical change’. But Abbott, who is running for re-election, did not address the specific issues raised in the report. Hours later, the state Department of Public Safety said it had begun reviewing the actions of every soldier, officer, agent and ranger at the scene to “determine whether violations of policy, law or doctrine occurred,” according to an emailed statement. .

The detailed 77-page account released Sunday to families of victims and survivors and then to the public was the most comprehensive account of the shooting inside Robb Elementary School to date. After weeks of competing accounts from agencies seeking to blame others for the assault that ended in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers by a teenager with a gun, the committee did not single out a department but apportioned blame it on various agencies and the school system for failing to plan and stop the carnage.

Local officials, including incident commander Pedro “Pete” Arredondo of the school police department, failed to take charge and officers from other agencies failed to fill the void, according to The report. The result was chaos that extended the time before the shooter was confronted and killed.

Hours after the report was released, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced the suspension of Uvalde Police Lt. Mariano Pargas, who was acting chief on May 24. The police officer is also a recently re-elected Uvalde County Commissioner. Pargas did not respond to messages about his reasons for leaving. An email sent to his county email address bounced and his phone number was disconnected.

Uvalde town leaders will investigate whether Pargas was responsible for taking command, what specific steps he took to establish command, whether it was possible to take command and “other possible violations of the law.” politics,” McLaughlin said.

Southwest Texas Junior College President Hector Gonzales was in the room as committee members explained their preliminary findings to the families. The facts came as no surprise after weeks of media leaks and public testimony from state law enforcement, but they were no less hot, he said.

Families, he said, are still absorbing the dense report, but their next logical step is to demand accountability. Local leaders in the region must reassure that they are taking notice and correcting mistakes, he said.

“We must see this report as a call to action to ensure that we, as leaders of our institutions, make the changes necessary to address these shortcomings,” said Gonzales, who organized the meeting between lawmakers. and families. “We cannot let this happen again. We all have a role to play, whether it involves challenging our colleagues and speaking up. We need to help advocate for those changes that are needed.

The report cited a lax culture around school safety protocols within schools in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District that left Robb Elementary unprepared for such an attack. In response, Superintendent Hal Harrell said in a statement that the district is taking steps to strengthen its security, including installing new fencing and perimeter cameras, upgrading door locks, and hiring school police and school staff. additional campuses.

Arredondo resigned from the city council but is still employed as the school district’s police chief. In its statement, the district did not indicate whether its status has changed. The district placed him on administrative leave last month.

The report named more than 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the response and rescue at Robb Elementary. The U.S. Border Patrol and Texas DPS provided more than half of the approximately 400 soldiers and officers near or on the school grounds that day, according to the report.

The parent agency of Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, said it was conducting its own review of its response through the Office of Professional Responsibility, but did not draw conclusions yet. About 145 officers were there, arriving from as far as 70 miles from Uvalde, and worked to help evacuate students from other classroom. Border Patrol agents were also part of the team that ultimately confronted and killed Salvador Ramos more than 77 minutes after firing the first shot.

Only one Border Patrol agent carried a body camera, in part because the agency has not fully implemented its camera program in all border areas. Some officers at the scene were off duty or out of uniform, officials said.

The CPB has promised to share the results of its review. Officials also promised to work with state, federal and local government agencies “to answer the tough questions about what went wrong.”

“We owe it to the community of Uvalde and to the nation,” CBP officials said in a statement.

Several other local agencies did not respond to calls or requests for comment, including the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office.

“The sheriff answers to the voters and the deputies answer to the sheriff,” Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza said in response to a question about whether elected leaders could or wanted to exert control. “We’re still a bit shocked by the preliminary report, we’re still chewing it, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Garza’s colleagues on the commission and Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell did not respond to questions about their next steps.

Some agencies in the region are taking action and improving their active shooter training.

Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado said his officers arrived well after the shooting ended and helped with crowd control at the civic center, where a memorial has begun to form. In recent weeks, some of his officers have participated in active-fire drills alongside Border Patrol agents and they are reviewing their own policies to make improvements, he said.

“Trust is restored through transparency, being open with the community and answering questions,” Delgado said. “If there are questions, I think any law enforcement agency has a responsibility to answer them. It is important to explain to our communities what our policies are.

Delgado, who is a close friend of the Uvalde police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said he withholds judgment on individuals, but he said internal reviews are an important part of pushing an agency to evolve and meet the needs of the people it serves.

Gonzales, the college’s president, said the report made it clear what needed to happen. He and his wife supported the families of victims and survivors, advising them and acting as a sounding board for emerging activism and community demands for change.

Last week, his college suffered a bomb threat. Officials evacuated the school, executed a multi-agency plan, and handed command to a DPS major who assessed the situation within three minutes. No one was hurt. Although the situations are different, he said, the comparison is stark.

“If it had happened on May 24, we would more than likely have had a different outcome,” he said. “I’m not going to say it should happen, but after a review, if there’s a need for change, it has to happen, and there has to be a process for that. The frustration is that it was not allowed to happen due to withholding information. It is an important part of the process.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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