Uvalde, TX – Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has accused the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) of attempting to “cover up” elements of the investigation into the Robb Elementary School massacre amid allegations that the school district’s police chief held police back from engaging the shooter as quickly as possible.
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were wounded in the horrific attack.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
“I’m not confident, 100%, in DPS because I think it’s a cover-up,” McLaughlin told CNN on Tuesday. “[DPS Director Steven] McCraw’s covering up for maybe his agencies.”
Director McCraw has placed blame for the delayed law enforcement response to the massacre squarely on the shoulders of Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District (UCISD) Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who the director alleged was the “on-scene commander.”
Chief Arredondo said 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 told the Texas Senate committee investigating the school shooting that the law enforcement response to the massacre was “an abject failure,” CNN reported.
“There’s compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre,” Director McCraw said.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject,” he continued. “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
McLaughlin said he doesn’t believe Director McCraw is being fully transparent about the investigation and argued that “every agency” who had officers staged in the hallway before the gunman was engaged “is gonna have to share the blame,” CNN reported.
“At this point, I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe,” the mayor said.
“When have you ever seen a federal or state law enforcement officer take their cues from local law enforcement?” he asked, according to FOX News. “When I got to that scene, there were 30 to 40 DPS officers already on-scene…these families in this community, they deserve to know what happened.”
McLaughlin previously blasted Director McCraw’s testimony to the Texas Senate committee, saying that DPS has told him and other local officials to keep quiet about the incident while investigations are still pending, USA Today reported.
“They can go to Austin and have public deals to talk about it…and not share a damn thing with this city or anybody in this community, and that’s wrong,” the mayor said. “That’s totally wrong.”
“I actually wonder who the hell’s in charge of this investigation ‘cause you can’t get a straight answer,” McLaughlin added. “It pisses me off that I can’t give you answers or can’t get you answers.”
The mayor expressed extreme frustration over the “lies,” “misstated information,” and “leaks,” released by some state agencies since the school shooting occurred, NBC News reported.
He said that everyone who waited in the school hallway before engaging the gunman need to provide answers about what transpired during the police response.
“Not just Pete Arredondo, not just local Uvalde Police Department, but the U.S. Marshals need to answer, the Border Patrol needs to answer, the DPS needs to answer…” the frustrated mayor told NBC News.
He noted that he still trusts the rank-and-file members of the DPS who serve the Uvalde community, but that he no longer believes everything coming from the agency’s upper management, CNN reported.
The timeline of events from the day of the massacre has changed dramatically over time, and McLaughlin said he hasn’t been briefed by “anybody” since one day after the attack.
“I lost confidence because the narrative changed from DPS so many times and when we asked questions, we weren’t getting answers,” he told CNN.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the law enforcement response at McLaughlin’s request.
The mayor has also called for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to come back to Uvalde to speak with the survivors and family members of those who were murdered.
“These families want to talk to the governor and he needs to come and see them,” McLaughlin told CNN.
“I want these families to have closure,” he added. “Nothing’s ever going to heal the pain that they have, it’s never going to heal that pain but they need to know what happened and they need to know the truth.”
Chief Arredondo said he and another officer tried opening the doors to the classrooms where the gunman was located, but that they found them securely locked.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Chief Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
But according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, security footage from inside the school showed that neither Chief Arredondo nor any of the officers who responded to the school ever attempted to open the classroom doors prior to obtaining the keys, ABC News reported.
Harrell did not specify why he removed the police chief, but said it was still too soon to know how long the investigation into the shooting will take.
Chief Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde City Council approximately two weeks prior to the school shooting.
He was sworn in as the District 3 councilman in a private ceremony on May 31.
He failed to attend an emergency city council meeting held shortly after the massacre, and also didn’t show up to a scheduled meeting on June 21, USA Today reported.
The Uvalde City Council unanimously voted that day to deny Chief Arredondo’s request for a leave of absence from his newly-elected role.
Had he missed two more meetings, the city council would have been able to remove him for abandoning his office, USA Today reported.
The chief resigned from the city council on July 1.