County commissioners in Uvalde, Texas, voted 3-0 Monday to launch an independent investigation into deputies’ actions during the Robb Elementary School massacre in May, which killed 19 students and two teachers.
County Commissioner John Yeackle said the initiative was to ensure residents receive a comprehensive report they can trust on how the sheriff’s office deputies performed that day. The review will also address the policies and procedures of the sheriff’s office, he said, noting that the office did not have an active gunman policy.
“We didn’t have an active gunmen policy in the province. That’s not surprising because a lot of small communities never think it’s going to happen to them and don’t have a written policy to that effect,” he said. “That will be something that definitely needs to be addressed in the future.”
Yeackle also said that based on previously released videos showing officers at the shooting scene, “no one seemed to know who was in charge.”
During the meeting, some members of the public expressed frustration at the slow start of investigations, as well as answers to what agents from multiple agencies did and did not do during the May 24 massacre.
Brett Cross, the father of Uziyah Garcia, 10, who died in the shooting, spoke at the rally. He said afterwards that police and officials were not held responsible.
“It’s a continuous slap in the face every day because no one takes responsibility — that’s nobody,” he said. “Everyone wants to run and hide and blame this and blame it. The fact is, the city has let us down. The school has let us down. This province has let us down.”
Cross and others speaking at Monday’s meeting were highly critical of County Commissioner Mariano Pargas, who was not present during the vote.
Cross said at the meeting, “We have a district commissioner who was on the scene who didn’t fucking do anything. And he’s still on duty. He didn’t even show up today.”
Earlier this month, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced that Pargas, who is also Uvalde’s deputy police chief, has been placed on furlough as the city launched an investigation into his response and that of his agents.
In a statement, McLaughlin said the city’s investigation would “examine whether Lieutenant Pargas was responsible for taking the order on May 24, what specific actions Lieutenant Pargas took to establish that order, and whether it was even feasible given all the people involved.” agencies and other potential policy violations.”
Pargas was not immediately available for comment Monday. No one from the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office could be reached.
County Commissioner Ronald Garza told NBC News they have yet to determine which consultancy will conduct the independent review.
Uvalde’s public school board on Friday postponed a special meeting originally scheduled for Saturday to discuss whether the embattled police chief, Pete Arredondo, could be fired.
The board cited Arredondo’s right to defend its actions during the mass shooting amid a disorganized response from multi-agency law enforcement.
“In accordance with due process requirements, and at the request of his attorney, the meeting to consider Chief Arredondo’s termination will be held at a later date, which has yet to be determined,” district spokesman Anne Marie Espinoza said in a statement. declaration.
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has placed Arredondo on paid leave on June 22 amid multiple investigations into law enforcement’s delayed response.
On Monday, Ricardo G. Cedillo, an attorney for Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez, confirmed that she had been placed on administrative leave by the district superintendent for reasons the school principal has not disclosed.
The school has been criticized for a lock set that appears to be in poor condition — it wouldn’t close — may have allowed the gunman to enter the first classroom he occupied that day.
A Texas House Commission report on alleged police and school district deficiencies before and during the attack said school administrators were aware of the lock but did not order repairs or replacements.
The campus was, in fact, home to a “culture of non-compliance,” with some teachers breaking rules by keeping doors open rather than making sure they were locked, the report said.
And when the school announced its closure during the attack, some teachers experienced delays because the campus had poor Wi-Fi, the legislative report said. Administrators could have used the campus intercom system, but they didn’t, according to the document.
A spokesman for the district did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
It took about 77 minutes between the arrival of the first officers and the moment when the police finally eliminated the gunman.
Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw has blamed Arredondo, who he said was the commander of the incident. Arredondo’s department has six sworn employees, but much larger agencies were on the scene, including DPS and US Border Patrol.
“There were enough officers to do what needed to be done, with one exception: the incident commander at the time believed he needed more equipment and more officers to commit a tactical breach,” McCraw said three days after the incident. shooting.
Arredondo has defended himself by saying he didn’t know he was supposed to be the incident commander, and that he went to class where shots were fired where he thought he could help.
However, he left his radios behind and stood by when a key to a classroom door was searched for, which took up valuable time.
In early July, Arredondo resigned from his elected seat in the city council about a month after he was sworn in.
That legislative report also criticized “systemic flaws and extremely poor decision-making” by law enforcement and the school district.
“The scene was chaotic, with no one clearly in charge or directing law enforcement’s response,” it noted.