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DPS Director Wishes His Agency Had Taken Command in Uvalde

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DPS Director Steve McCraw | Image by Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

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The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the state’s top law enforcement agency, said he wishes state troopers would have taken over command at the scene of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in May.

As scrutiny continues over the police response to the mass school shooting in Uvalde, DPS Director Steve McCraw sat down with USA Today for an all-encompassing interview published Sunday.

When asked by USA Today why his agency did not take control of the police response, McCraw responded, “I wish we would have.”

McCraw, who previously called the police response in Uvalde an “abject failure,” told USA Today that the first DPS captain did not arrive at the scene until 12:25 p.m., about an hour after the gunman entered the school. However, DPS records reviewed by the Texas Tribune report that a DPS special agent arrived around 20 minutes after the shooting started.

Of the 376 officers who responded to Robb Elementary school, 91 were with DPS. Law enforcement waited more than an hour outside the classrooms to confront the gunman, contrary to active-shooter training that teaches officers to take down an active shooter as soon as possible.

DPS previously took command at the scene of past tragedies, including West’s 2013 fertilizer plant explosion and the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School.

In the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, McCraw has deflected blame for the inadequate police response onto Pete Arredondo, the school district’s police chief, who was fired last month. During a June Senate testimony, McCraw said Arredondo was the only obstacle between armed police and the 18-year-old gunman.

Still, a Texas House committee report on the police response criticized all law enforcement agencies who descended upon Robb Elementary, including DPS, for not offering Arredondo assistance with incident command.

During the interview with USA Today, McCraw also revealed that a total of seven DPS officers had been referred for investigation to the agency’s internal affairs division. Two of the seven are part of DPS command staff, according to USA Today.

Last Tuesday, five DPS troopers were announced to be under investigation for their conduct during the shooting, two of whom were suspended with pay, as reported by The Dallas Express. Two more officers were referred for investigation on Friday.

Despite that, McCraw was quoted as saying “no one is losing their jobs” over the response to the shooting, according to notes from an August DPS meeting obtained by KXAN. However, McCraw later told CNN that he had been misquoted and that “no one gets a pass.”

McCraw also told CNN last week that he would resign if inquiries into the shooting concluded that DPS troopers had “any culpability” in the delayed response.

Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, called on McCraw to step down because of the DPS response to the shooting and said his deflection of blame is so people do not realize his agency “didn’t do a damned thing” to rescue the kids.

“Do I think he should retire? The answer is yes,” Gutierrez told USA Today of McCraw. “I think what happened May 24 was an abject failure by every agency there, including the Department of Public Safety.”

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