Nearly one month ago, Uvalde, TX, became another horrible household name as an extremely disturbed young man went on a shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School, leaving 19 children and two schoolteachers dead. Following a macabre number of funerals, after a grieving community struggled just get through the next day, Uvalde’s wounds have been unceremoniously unwrapped and shown to the public. The real fight has now begun between friends, government officials, neighbors, and parents, all pointing fingers at those involved on that fateful day.
What is clear to most onlookers is that nothing went right. But with everything under scrutiny, by far the most alarming thing that went wrong was the lack of police motivation to intercede. The delays in response by law enforcement are the laser focus of federal, state, and local investigations.
Law Enforcement at Odds
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the Uvalde police response to the Robb Elementary School shooting an “abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the past two decades since the Columbine massacre.” During a special Texas Senate committee hearing in Austin, McCraw continued:
“One hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds, that’s how long the children waited, and the teachers waited… to be rescued. The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had body armor. The children had none. The officers had training. The subject had none.”
The remarks resulted in Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin accusing the state’s top cop of lying about the events that occurred on that dreadful day. Pete Arredondo, the chief of the school district’s police force, is also a member of the City Council. McCraw accused that Arredondo put the lives of his officers over those of children. And the state senate asked McCraw why he did not take over the scene. McCraw deferred to Arredondo again that the on-scene commander is “the ranking official that has jurisdiction.”
“When you go into this kind of situation, lives are at stake. Within 5 to 10 minutes, you know what’s going on. You know that whoever is in charge is not making the right decisions. You got to take over and take command of the situation,” countered state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-TX).
Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-TX) challenged Arredondo to testify publicly, as he has yet to give much of a report. Pointing at the beleaguered Arredondo, Bettencourt continued his attack while observing scenes of security footage inside the school: “There are at least six shots fired during this time. Why is this person shooting? He’s killing somebody. Yet this incident commander finds every reason to do nothing.”
Parents And Spouses Are Not Satisfied
And the blame by those who still grieve is pointed first at Arredondo and second at the rest of the officers present who allowed their chief to do nothing. And the failures didn’t begin with the shooting: Arredondo did not have a radio with him. The radios of the local police and sheriff’s department didn’t work inside the school, just those of the Border Patrol agents on the scene. Various diagrams of the school that police used to coordinate their response were incorrect.
Begging for accountability, parents and community members attended the latest school board meeting to express their frustrations. They want Arredondo fired – not placed on leave, as some have suggested.
Brett Cross, uncle and guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia, spoke out: “We were failed by Pete Arredondo. He failed our kids, teachers, parents, and city, and by keeping him on your staff, y’all are continuing to fail us.” Lyliana Garcia, the daughter of heroic slain teacher Irma Garcia, simply asked: “My mom died protecting her students. But who was protecting my mom?”
One resident who spoke at the hearing made his points crystal clear: Bradley Hodges. Hodges asked why state lawmakers were swift to implement COVID mandates and social distancing, e-learning, and mask mandates but were unable or unwilling to beef up school security. “Is there any institutional bias in the Texas school system against implementing objectively reasonable protective measures?”
Hodges finally relinquished his time, stating, “But they can’t be bothered with locking a door. That’s the opposite of school safety. That is child endangerment on an institutional level.”