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Texas DPS Officers Suspended In Investigation For Response To Uvalde School Shooting

Uvalde, TX – Five Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers who responded to the Robb Elementary School massacre have been referred to the Texas Inspector General’s office for a formal investigation into their actions on the day of the school shooting.

Two of those officers have been suspended with pay while the investigation continues, KVUE reported.

The unnamed officers were referred to the state Inspector General’s Office after a DPS investigation, the agency said on Tuesday.

The intention of the formal investigation will be to help determine whether or not the officers violated any policies or training guidelines and, if so, what disciplinary actions they should face, KVUE reported.

It was not immediately clear how long the investigation is expected to take.

The DPS also released a letter DPS Director Steven McCraw previously sent to DPS officers in July instructing them to never treat anyone who fires a weapon at a school as a “barricaded subject,” KVUE reported.

Instead, such an individual must be dealt with as an “active shooter until he is neutralized,” Director McCraw said.

He noted that DPS would also be implementing a plan to “provide proper training and guidelines for recognizing and overcoming poor command decisions at an active shooter scene,” KVUE reported.

Nineteen children and two teachers were murdered and 17 more victims were wounded during the May 24 attack.

Nearly 400 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers responded to the school as the incident unfolded, but police waited for more than an hour before they breached the classroom and fatally shot the 18-year-old gunman.

“As Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw stated during his testimony before the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans back in June, the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary on May 24 was an abject failure,” the DPS said in a statement Tuesday, according to KVUE. “In law enforcement, when one officer fails, we all fail.”

Director McCraw has long placed blame for the delayed law enforcement response on now-former Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District Police Department (UCISDPD) Chief Pete Arredondo, who the director alleged was the “on-scene commander” during the school shooting.

Chief Arredondo has argued he believed he was in the role of a front-line responder and that someone else was commanding the larger police response to the situation.

Director McCraw said in the letter issued to DPS officers in July that every law enforcement agency that responded to the scene of the school shooting “shares in this failure, including DPS,” KVUE reported.

“Although I remain highly critical of the decision to treat the incident as a barricaded subject by the ranking Consolidated Independent School District police official at the scene, DPS and other agencies must also be held accountable for their actions or inactions,” he wrote.

“It is clear from the evidence law enforcement should have treated this situation as an active shooter event,” Director McCraw added. “The ongoing criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers includes the examination of the actions of every law enforcement officer who responded to the scene. That investigation remains ongoing until the District Attorney in Uvalde is satisfied that she has enough information to assess whether there is criminal culpability by any of the responding officers.”

The Uvalde school board ultimately voted to fire Chief Arredondo on Aug. 24, The Texas Tribune reported.

The former chief’s attorney, George Hyde, described the termination and the events leading up to it as an “illegal and unconstitutional public lynching.”

Uvalde School Board President Luis Fernandez said after firing Chief Arredondo that cutting ties with the longtime officer was “an important step in accountability and rebuilding our community’s trust in the district,” The Texas Tribune reported.

“To our Uvalde community — we hear you, and we are committed to doing what needs to be done to maintain a learning environment that is safe, secure, and nurturing for all students,” Fernandez added.

Chief Arredondo had also been elected to the Uvalde City Council approximately two weeks prior to the deadly shooting.

He ultimately resigned from the council on July 1, the Uvalde Leader-News reported.

Chief Arredondo was placed on unpaid leave by the Uvalde CISD in July, according to the San Antonio Express News.

A Texas House of Representatives investigative committee released a scathing 77-page report the same month regarding the law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School massacre.

They noted that most of the 376 law enforcement officers who responded to the school that day were from state and federal agencies, including 91 DPS officers, 150 U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) officials, and 14 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers, according to CNN.

The committee further noted that those agencies were better equipped and trained to handle the active shooter incident than the school district’s police force, the Associated Press reported.

The investigative committee said the hundreds of officers at the scene should have recognized that Chief Arredondo couldn’t command the situation when he didn’t even have a radio to communicate, the Associated Press reported.

The report described the law enforcement response to the situation as “lackadaisical” and said that none of the hundreds of officers at the scene ever assumed command of the situation.

It further concluded that some of the officers waited to breach because they were relying on inaccurate information, while others “had enough information to know better,” the Associated Press reported.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report read.

“Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the committee wrote. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”

The panel ultimately concluded that “the entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities,” according to CNN.

The report also identified problems with the school’s security measures prior to and on the day of the attack.

No one ever announced the lockdown over the intercom, and poor WIFI service in the building “likely delayed the lockdown alert,” according to the report.

“As a result, not all teachers received timely notice of the lockdown,” the committee concluded.

School officials were also aware of chronic problems with faulty locks and doors throughout the building, CNN reported.

The locking mechanism to Room 111 was “widely known to be faulty, yet it was not repaired,” according to the report.

“Robb Elementary had a culture of noncompliance with safety policies requiring doors to be kept locked, which turned out to be fatal,” the report said.

The special committee’s report came less than two weeks after the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) released its own findings pertaining to the law enforcement response to the school massacre.

That investigation, which was completed at the request of the DPS, alleged that an Uvalde police officer had the gunman in his rifle sights before the suspect walked into the school.

ALERRT claimed the officer was prepared to pull the trigger, but that he couldn’t get his supervisors to grant him permission to shoot.

But according to Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, those claims are completely inaccurate, KHOU reported.

“No Uvalde police department officer saw the shooter on May 24 prior to him entering the school,” the mayor said in a statement. “No Uvalde police officers had any opportunity to take a shot at the gunman.”

He noted that a UPD officer did see a person outside the school at one point, along with multiple children, but that the person he saw was not the gunman, KHOU reported.

“Ultimately, it was a coach with children on the playground, not the shooter,” McLaughlin said.

The mayor further alleged that DPS troopers arrived at the school much sooner than indicated in the ALERRT report and the testimony Director McCraw presented to the legislative committee, KHOU reported.

He said that “dozens of DPS troopers” were on-site, including some who were at the door approximately three minutes after the shooter entered the school.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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