Uvalde, TX – Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin denounced a recently-released report that criticized the police response to the Robb Elementary School massacre and alleged that portions of the document are completely untrue.
McLaughlin, who accused the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) of attempting to “cover up” elements of the investigation during an interview with CNN on Tuesday, spoke out about the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) report on Friday, KHOU reported.
The report, which was released on Wednesday, was compiled to assess the law enforcement response to the massacre.
It was conducted at the request of the DPS.
ALERRT reportedly utilized bodycam, radio logs, video footage from inside and outside the school, and verbal testimony from officers who were at the scene to complete the assessment.
According to the report, an Uvalde police officer had the 18-year-old gunman in his rifle sights before the suspect walked into the school and was prepared to pull the trigger, but couldn’t get his supervisors to grant him permission to shoot.
“The UPD officer was armed with a rifle and sighted in to shoot the attacker; however, he asked his supervisor for permission to shoot,” the report stated.
“The UPD officer did not hear a response and turned to get confirmation from his supervisor. When he turned back to address the suspect, the suspect had already entered the west hall exterior door at 11:33:00,” according to ALERRT.
Twenty-one people were killed and 17 more were wounded in the horrific attack.
Nineteen of the murdered victims were children.
But according to McLaughlin, the ALERRT’s claims about the Uvalde police officer having the suspect in his sights and not firing 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 DPS Director Steven McCraw presented to the Texas Senate committee that is investigating the law enforcement response to the massacre, 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.
“I’ve said it once and will say it again,” McLaughlin’s statement read. “The premature release of piecemeal information or anything related to the May 24 Department of Public Safety (DPS)/Texas Rangers investigation is a disservice to families who lost children or parents because the true facts need to come out once all investigations/reviews, which the City expects will be thorough and fair, are complete.”
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. “I’m not confident, 100%, in DPS because I think it’s a cover-up. McCraw’s covering up for maybe his agencies.”
“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.