Uvalde school shooting: Texas DPS chief Steven McCraw to update agency oversight board Thursday



CNN

The top official for the Texas Department of Public Safety will testify Thursday before his agency’s oversight panel about the actions of its officers in the May massacre at an Uvalde elementary school, with the victims’ families outraged by the response. he is expected to attend the meeting and call for his resignation.

Col. Steven McCraw’s testimony before the Texas Public Safety Commission will continue the investigation by the agency’s inspector general into what seven DPS officers did — or didn’t do — in a shooting that killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in Robb. In the worst US school shooting in nearly a decade.

Relatives of Uvalde’s victims – many of whom have demanded accountability for the law enforcement response for months – will demand McCraw’s resignation at the meeting, according to relatives who were invited. The session will begin with a public comment period of five minutes per speaker, and both DPS and the commission are open to family members speaking, DPS sources said, adding that the agency has been contacted to coordinate this portion of the meeting.

McCraw’s comments are expected to be the most extensive and revealing yet about the DPS response. They come as the scourge of U.S. school shootings shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 attacks reported on U.S. campuses this year, according to Monday’s St. Including a high school student and a teacher killed in Louis.

As nearly 400 DPS officers and 22 other agencies responded to the Uvalde campus on May 24 within minutes of the first shots, law enforcement waited 77 minutes — violating standard shooter protocol and training — before tearing into nearby classrooms to find victims. and the 18-year-old gunman was killed.

Any disciplinary action DPS may take against any of its officers could be part of Thursday’s report by McCraw, who has vowed to “give (his) resignation to the governor” if his department is found guilty.

Brett Cross, who was helping raise his 10-year-old niece Uziyah Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting, will be at Thursday’s board meeting to confront McCraw and other officials, he told CNN.

“I will hold them accountable for their inaction,” he said, adding that he would ask McCraw to resign.

While investigating how law enforcement responded to the massacre, however, the long-term impact on the victims’ families has been lost, Cross said.

“I don’t think they feel or understand the consequences of this, but we are real people who have lost the biggest things in our lives,” he said. “And these people who have been completely still and doing nothing, and who are still doing nothing, go home and go to bed and sleep peacefully at night.”

Thursday’s meeting will be McCraw’s first public testimony about the bloodshed in Uvalde since June, when he called the response to the shooting a “dismal failure” before a state Senate committee but blamed local and school district police, including the agency’s chief Pedro . Pete” Arredondo, state authorities said, was the commander of the incident.

Arredondo, who denied being in that position, was fired in August — a move his attorney called an “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding that Arredondo should be reinstated with back pay and all benefits.

Arredondo was one of five school district officers at Robb Elementary, and 91 DPS personnel responded to the shooting — the most by any non-U.S. Border Patrol agent, according to a July report by a state House of Representatives investigative committee.

DPS has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the response to the tragedy, from its initial account breaking days after the bloodshed to when body camera footage revealed to CNN that a DPS trooper arrived at Robb Elementary before agency leaders. to publicly acknowledge

After an internal review of the actions of each DPS officer at the scene, the agency sent seven of the agency’s inspector generals to investigate.

Among them is state police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to delay a team of officers entering the classrooms, telling investigators he believed a more skilled team was on the way, CNN reported.

Also included is Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell, whose sources told investigators the chief was focused on providing updates and did not discuss the possibility of disrupting classrooms. He is seen on surveillance and body camera footage talking on the phone and at one point apparently offering to negotiate with the gunman.

McCraw has denounced similar negotiation attempts by Arredondo, calling it a “wrong decision.”

Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado was issued discharge papers, DPS said Friday, as sources confirmed to CNN that the shooting was a result of his response on the day of the shooting.

Another officer, Crimson Elizondo, left DPS and took a job this summer with the school district police. However, he was fired after CNN reported that he was among those being investigated.

Each of those officials declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.

The Public Safety Commission now has four members, appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Many of Uvalde’s victims’ families, meanwhile, have campaigned for Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger, and have called for Uvalde’s response, arguing that the governor’s term should end.