Uvalde Parents Denounce Report Defending Police Response

A memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults murdered on May 24, 2022 during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Parents of the children killed in the Uvalde school massacre asked the city council on Tuesday to reject a locally commissioned report stating the involved police officers should not be punished.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School occurred on May 24, 2022, when Salvador Ramos, a former student, killed 19 students and two teachers. Police actions that day have been heavily criticized as it took over an hour for officers to breach the classroom Ramos was in. The shooter was killed by officers with the Border Patrol Tactical Force, who ignored local police who had taken up positions in the hallways but had made no effort to engage the shooter.

The Austin-based private investigator, Jesse Prado, tasked by the city with investigating the performance of officers, ultimately concluded that all of the officers involved should be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Prado’s extensive 182-page report, as previously reported by The Dallas Express, details every move made by each officer involved in the shooting and includes detailed interview accounts with each.

However, Prado mentioned in the report that he only received “what the Uvalde County District Attorney believed I needed to conduct a thorough and complete investigative review of the officers’ actions” and that the “internal investigation has been hindered by the lack of cooperation from the Uvalde County District Attorney” Christina Mitchell.

Prado concluded that “there were no indications of wrongdoing” for those who entered the building in the Uvalde mass shooting, including the officers and detectives. Prado also noted the exoneration of those in police command as well as the dispatchers and officers who did not enter the building.

Regarding the review of Acting Chief Lt. Mariano Pargas’s actions due to Chief Daniel Rodriguez being out of town during the incident, Prado noted, “No evidence of serious acts of misconduct in direct violation of Uvalde Police Department’s policies was found in his behavior as acting chief of police in response to the incident. Lieutenant Mariano Pargas acted in good faith during this incident.”

“You said they did it in good faith. You call that good faith? They stood there 77 minutes,” said Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter was killed in the attack, reported The Dallas Morning News.

Prado explained that “[e]veryone had trouble with the radio. The problem was that nobody had direction as far as the other agencies involved. Lt. Pargas was able to take care of their own agency but was not able to take care of the agencies coming in. DPS took over the case after the shooter was down.”

Prado praised certain officers such as Staff Sergeant Eduardo Canales, whom he exonerated, adding, “SSgt. Canales was the second person on the contact team and also received injuries to his ear. SSgt. Canales showed unmeasurable strength and focus in the performance of his duties. SSgt. Canales had no doubt his own 10-year-old child was within an unknown class in the close proximity of the class the shooter had taken possession of.”

Prado did recommend Uvalde Police Department receive active shooter training as a “crucial element of a strong tactical response,” adding that “there is no evidence that the training [provided] was consistent or comprehensive, and it was not attended by officer’s department wide.”

“These families deserve more. This community deserves more,” said Uvalde City Council member Hector Luevano, who said the report was “insulting.”

The locally commissioned report followed the resignations of the recently elected mayor of Uvalde and the chief of police.

“I just don’t understand, you know, because all of these people are mothers and fathers, all the city council, even these cops. You know, they’re parents and I wish they would just put themselves in our shoes just for a few minutes just to see so that maybe they would do the right thing,” said Brett Cross in an interview with NBC 5 DFW. Cross was raising his nephew, who was one of the victims of the mass shooting.

Numerous investigations have taken place since the shooting, including one by the Texas House of Representatives that was critical of the actions of the officers.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety… there was an unacceptably long period of time before officers breached the classroom, neutralized the attacker, and began rescue efforts,” the House report read.

A Critical Incident Review by the Department of Justice (DOJ) also noted that a “lack of clear command presence” significantly affected law enforcement’s delayed response.

“The extent of misinformation, misguided and misleading narratives, leaks, and lack of communication about what happened on May 24 is unprecedented and has had an extensive, negative impact on the mental health and recovery of the family members and other victims, as well as the entire community of Uvalde,” the DOJ report said, per ABC News.

Since the shooting, parents of children who were killed have called on authorities to charge officers involved in the delay with crimes. It took 77 minutes from when police first arrived until the shooter was neutralized. Several police officers have lost their jobs, including the incident commander and school district chief of police Pete Arredondo, but charges are unlikely, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

“It is hard enough waking up every day and continuing to walk out on these streets, walk to a (grocery store) and see a cop who you know was standing there when our babies were murdered and bleeding out,” Cross said to NBC.

A grand jury has been reviewing evidence since January to determine whether criminal charges brought into investigation by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell’s office are appropriate, per The Texas Tribune.

In the wake of several tragic school shootings in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety has taken a more assertive and proactive approach to address such incidents. Steven McCraw, the director of the state police, outlined a new policy for officers responding to an active shooter at a school, per The New York Times. The policy authorizes officers to take necessary measures to quickly neutralize the attacker, even if that means overcoming any delay or obstacle that may arise during the operation. This directive aims to ensure a swift and effective response to any potential threat to the safety of students, teachers, and staff at schools in Texas.

Robb Elementary, where the mass shooting occurred, has since been demolished, and Uvalde has broken ground on a new campus expected to open in 2025, DX reported.

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