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Acting Uvalde Police Chief Placed on Administrative Leave

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Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin | Image by Austin American-statesman

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The Uvalde Police Department’s acting police chief on the day of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School was placed on administrative leave Sunday.

Lt. Mariano Pargas was the acting police chief on the day of the worst school shooting in Texas history, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed on May 24. Additionally, an investigation is underway to determine what Pargas did to take command of the scene, if he should have taken command of the scene, and whether that was even possible.

His suspension is the first official fallout following the release early Sunday of a report from the Texas House committee investigating the shooting. The police chief of Uvalde’s school district’s police department, Pete Arredondo, is also on administrative leave.

The 77-page report from the House committee detailed ‘multiple systemic failures’ by law enforcement on the day of the massacre.

The report said 376 law enforcement officers responded to the school, but there was a lack of clear leadership, basic communication, and urgency.

In the report, officers described confusion, chaos, and disorganization at the scene, during which it took more than an hour for law enforcement to breach the classrooms and take down the shooter.

Arredondo was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, but he has previously stated he did not know he was in charge.

The school’s active shooter plan, which Arredondo helped develop, specifies the chief will “become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at the scene.”

The report says some of the victims might have been saved if officers did not wait for over an hour to engage the gunman.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin called on every law enforcement agency that responded to the shooting to investigate their highest-ranking official who was present at the scene that day.

“We agree with the Committee’s review of the incident, there was failure of command,” said McLaughlin. “However, we have further questions as to who was responsible for taking command as each agency there had senior level commanders on site. We want to know which agency took what specific actions to take command, and where did the critical breakdown occur.”

“As Mayor of Uvalde, the City only has any authority over its own police force,” McLaughlin continued. “Which is why I support the City’s decision to place Lt. Pargas on administrative leave and conduct a full internal investigation. However, it is imperative that each agency onsite at Robb School that day commits to the same process and investigates their highest ranking, onsite officers’ actions.”

McLaughlin added that the City would also be releasing body camera footage from the Uvalde police officers who responded to the shooting, saying the community “has waited entirely too long for answers and transparency.”

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