Exclusive: Uvalde mayor vows top cop who knew children needed to be rescued from Robb Elementary will be gone ‘at the end of this week’

Uvalde, Texas

Valley Mayor Don McLaughlin said he was outraged by the actions of Lt. Mariano Pargas, who a CNN report showed had failed to arrange for help for the children who were caught with a gunman.

“Lt. Pargas will not be a member of the Uvalde police department. At least by the end of the week, if not sooner,” he told CNN on Tuesday.

Pargas has been on administrative leave since July, two months after a botched law enforcement response to the massacre that killed 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers. But CNN’s report that Pargas contacted his dispatchers to get details of a 911 call from a student who was trapped in a classroom but had not yet taken control gives city officials the justification they need to remove him from the payroll, McLaughlin said.

He said he appreciated CNN’s report, but was frustrated that information he and city leaders needed to deal with changes to the police force was withheld from them while the district attorney conducts his investigation ahead of criminal charges. In June, Uvalde County Prosecutor Christina Mitchell Busbee said she wanted to release the records or videos while the investigation was ongoing. “Any record of this incident at this time would interfere with the ongoing investigation and impede a thorough and complete investigation,” he said in a statement.

“The mayor of this community and I can speak for the county judge down the street, we have not been notified once by law enforcement,” McLaughlin said.

“I think Mariano would have left sooner,” he added, adding that if he had known what CNN reported about Pargas on the 24th while the police chief was on vacation.

“It just goes to show what we originally put on leave: that he didn’t have the ability to act and that he didn’t establish a command situation. And then as police chief, he gets that information and he doesn’t do anything with it, that I’ve seen.”

McLaughlin said city attorneys will now see if Pargas, 65, will resign or if further action is needed.

CNN reached out to Pargas for comment after speaking with McLaughlin, but has not heard back. On Monday, Pargas said his attorneys advised him not to speak but wanted to defend his actions.

“It is not that we are afraid, because there is nothing to fear. We did what we could, but the fact is that we have been told that we cannot (speak publicly),” he said.

If Pargas decides not to leave voluntarily, McLaughlin said the police chief and city manager now have justification to take action and another avenue to termination could come through the city commission.

McLaughlin said he “should be” when asked if Pargas should be fired, but added, “I don’t know if he’s going to retire. I don’t know if he’s going to be fired. It’s going to be between his lawyer and our lawyers to get that.”

He complained that he and city leaders were repeatedly blindsided by CNN’s investigations into the law enforcement response, including by local officers, but also the actions of Texas Department of Public Safety officers.

The lack of information hindered decision-making, but it was also difficult for the victims’ families, who promised to get the truth, he said.

And he confirmed his concern that not everyone was open about the mistakes he made that day.

“Because there is no transparency, no honesty, etc. on the part of DPS,” he said.

“Every time we turn the story around, the story changes or they release a narrative that only shows part of the story…but it always leaves DPS out. It’s disappointing, really disappointing.”

Col. Steven McCraw, DPS director, dismissed McLaughlin’s suspicions in September. “First of all, there is no cover. And the bottom line is as soon as we can, we’re going to release everything,” he told CNN before a meeting in Brownsville, Texas.

McLaughlin said he stayed out of school that day, after it took officers 77 minutes to stop a gunman after entering the building and common sense told him children were inside.

“It’s time to clean up,” he said.

“Mistakes were made that day. There is no doubt about that. Terrible mistakes. But, we have to go ahead and correct it, so that the same mistake does not happen in another school or in another community, maybe they can learn from what was done here”.