Uvalde shooting: Ex-soldier under investigation for responding to massacre fired from new job after CNN report



Uvalde, Texas
CNN

[Breaking news update, 1:35 p.m. ET]

Following this CNN report, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) released a statement Thursday announcing the officer’s termination, effective today.

“We are alarmed by the information spread yesterday evening about an employee of Crimson Elizondo that we have just hired. We sincerely apologize to the victim’s families and the greater Uvalde community for the pain this revelation has caused. Mrs. Elizondo’s statement in the audio does not match the District’s expectations,” said the district’s statement.

UCISD did not specify what information they were referring to.

The district said former DPS officer Crimson Elizondo has been terminated from his position at Uvalde CISD on Oct. 6.

“Regarding the rest of the UCISD Police Department staff, we continue to make personnel decisions based on verifiable information. An independent investigation is underway on May 24, 2022 to evaluate the actions of current officers. Additionally, we await the results of a management and organizational review of the UCISD Police Department, taking informed actions to further ensure the safety of the district which will help him and the safety of our schools”, added the statement.

[Previously published story, 11:50 a.m. ET]

A Texas state trooper arrived at Robb Elementary two minutes after a gunman entered the school and began the massacre last May.

Crimson Elizondo is seen in his Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) uniform, gun drawn, outside the Uvalde school building and then in the hallway, in another officer’s body camera image.

He was one of the first of 91 DPS officers to arrive, one of 376 law enforcement officers who attended the shooting for 77 minutes – with dead, dying and traumatized victims.

The response to the attack in which 19 children and two teachers were killed has been denounced as a “disastrous failure” in order to spread the blame far enough.

The school’s police chief was fired and now seven DPS officers are being investigated for what they did or didn’t do.

CNN has revealed that Elizondo is one of those officers. A source close to the investigation also confirmed this to CNN.

He no longer works for DPS. He left in the summer and got a new job.

Now, he is a police officer in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD), where his mission is to protect the same children who survived the Robb Elementary shooting.

Elizondo declined to speak to CNN in person, by phone or by direct message.

Uvalde CISD said it wanted to hire 10 more officers after the May 24 attack. He did not specifically announce that Elizondo would be hired this summer, although the names and photos of him and four other police officers, a lieutenant and security guards are on his website under the banner “KEEP UCISD SAFE.”

Superintendent Hal Harrell said at a special town hall meeting in August that at least 33 DPS officers would also be deployed to the district’s eight schools. After initial concerns from neighbors that officers who failed to stop the killing would end up taking over school security, parent Brett Cross told CNN he was reassured by the disclosure. DPS officers would not respond to the shooting.

In his new position, this limitation does not apply to Elizondo. Children and parents passed him at Uvalde Elementary, the new home of the youngest students who survived the Robb bloodshed, at the start of the school year.

And some parents, including those who lost children in the massacre, recognized him from body camera footage released by the mayor, relatives told CNN.

“We are disgusted and outraged by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) decision to hire Officer Crimson Elizondo. His hiring calls into question the credibility and thoroughness of UCISD’s HR and vetting practices,” according to a statement from family representatives.

It made them feel comfortable, CNN has learned, another reminder of the deadly day in a town full of such memories.

But they didn’t know he was investigating.

It is also unclear whether the school district was aware of the investigation when it was hired.

The family’s statement calls for all officers in the department to be suspended pending a third-party investigation, the results of which must be “disclosed” to the public and the families of the victims.

“Our children have been taken from us. We will not stop fighting until we have answers and ensure that the safety of children in our community is a top priority,” the statement said.

Cross, the legal guardian of Uziyah Garcia, one of the children killed at Robb Elementary, says she is “disgusted” by what the district did.

“I’m absolutely amazed,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper and says the school board met with him and offered to move those officers to off-campus roles. He says he will continue to hold a vigil outside the school board offices until all officers are suspended.

The district and its staff did not respond to emails and calls and a personal CNN approach for this story.

Texas DPS, which helps local law enforcement in emergency situations, has announced an internal review of personnel who responded to Robb.

Sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that Elizondo is one of seven officers whose conduct is being investigated by DPS, but neither their names nor their actions or inactions have been released.

In an internal memo to the agency’s director obtained by CNN, DPS cited “actions inconsistent with training and requirements” as the reason for referring officers to the investigation.

Sources familiar with the inquiry told CNN that Elizondo was not properly equipped and told investigators that he was not comfortable going inside the school without his equipment.

Elizondo was briefly in the corridor while attacking, but was not wearing body armor.

Footage from police body cameras and other officers seen by CNN shows Elizondo arriving outside the school as one of the first officers to respond to a report of an armed man at Robb Elementary.

He gets out of his officer’s vehicle, but does not retrieve tactical body armor or his long rifle, as officers are trained to do.

He doesn’t go near the school, but stays outside the fence with officers from other agencies until a call comes over the radio, “Gunshots inside the building!”

Elizondo goes to the east end of the building that connected classrooms 111 and 112. A short time later, responding officers are told the shooter is in a west room.

After that, the recordings play more than an hour of confusion and delay before going to help the staff and students trapped in rooms 111 and 112, a catalog of mistakes that has become part of the Uvalde tragedy.

Elizondo briefly walked inside the building, but mostly stayed outside.

As the officers prepared for what turned out to be the final breakout, he offered to help a colleague and went to collect supplies for him. He was out of school when he was shot dead.

Within moments, body camera footage shows, the hallway where so many were standing turned into a scene of carnage as officers pulled students from classrooms and assessed their injuries.

Soon Elizondo was there, asking the students to “go, go, go” if they could and not to look at the wounds or the blood on the ground. An officer comforted one boy as an officer checked his injuries, telling him over and over that he was there with him, that he would be okay and that he would tell his parents soon.

The footage showed him riding a school bus to the hospital with students who had been shot and traumatized, again helping to care for them.

DPS Director Steven McCraw said in August, “Each of our officers will be reviewed by the DA and an internal investigation will be conducted; just because they didn’t break the law doesn’t mean they acted appropriately according to our policy.”

Official notes from a meeting two weeks later show McCraw telling the captains, “Nobody’s losing their job.” McCraw told CNN he was misquoted in the transcript and vowed that “no one gets a pass.”

Elizondo, right, in his new UCISD uniform, declined to speak to CNN.

He said he would release all the information when he could, but the local attorney asked him not to do so until the criminal investigation was completed, a process he acknowledged could take years.

Busbee District Attorney Christina Mitchell will prosecute anyone who committed a crime at Robb Elementary, including law enforcement officers, she said.

CNN reached out to the Department of Public Safety, which declined to comment for this story.

A coalition of news organizations including CNN is suing DPS over records about the investigation that were withheld from the media and the public.

So far, the only person who has lost his job as a result of the response to the shooting has been school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired by the school board in August. Arredondo became the protagonist of the failed response, although he said that he did not consider himself the commander of the events and has asked to be reinstated.

Elizondo earned a base salary of $59,715 at DPS, according to a database compiled by The Texas Tribune, reflecting a 12 percent increase from a year ago. He joined the department in 2018.

His new salary is not known, but the job posting for a similar role has a lower salary range of $41,584 to $59,158.

That release lists the mental and physical demands of the position, including “the ability to effectively deal with personal risk that may involve sudden exposure to armed individuals … in intense threat situations.”

On May 24, while riding the school bus from the hospital to Robb Elementary, she told another officer, “Nothing can prepare you for when you were taken out. It was horrible.”

He can later be heard on body camera footage talking to other officers, when someone asks him if he had any children at school that day.

The woman, now wearing a school police uniform, gave a sharp response.

In his blood-stained DPS uniform, he said, “If my son had been there, I wouldn’t have been out there. I promise you that.’