Facing calls for his resignation from victims’ relatives and a major newspaper, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw will not resign, he said at a meeting of the agency’s oversight board Thursday that its officers “did not fail the community” of Uvalde during a May mass shooting in which 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed.
“If DPS as an institution failed the families, the school or the community of Uvalde, I have to go,” McCraw said at the Texas Public Safety Commission meeting. “But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution right now did not fail the community, quite simply.”
McCraw’s comments, which came moments after families of several victims called for his resignation, follow the referral of seven DPS officers for investigation by the agency’s inspector general for what they did — or didn’t do — when a gunman killed 21 people at Robb Elementary in the worst school shooting in the United States in nearly a decade.
While nearly 400 DPS officers and 22 other agencies responded May 24 to the Uvalde campus starting within minutes of the first shots being fired, law enforcement waited 77 minutes, in violation of protocol and training regular active shooters, before breaching the adjoining classrooms to find the victims. and kill the 18-year-old gunman.
McCraw had previously promised to “submit (his) resignation to the governor” if his department is found to be at fault in the shooting.
“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his classmates and his teachers were killed,” said Brett Cross, who was helping raise his 10-year-old nephew Uziyah Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting.
But as the clock continues to tick, Cross said: “Several numbers remain the same: It was 77 minutes that 91 of you waited outside while our children were slaughtered.
“We are not waiting any longer. Our families, our community, our state have waited long enough. And playing politics will only put the lives of more Texans at risk,” Cross said, adding, “I expect … your resignation immediately.”
Cross reiterated his call for McCraw to resign, or be fired by the governor, on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.”
“He just refuses to do what’s right, and it’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How are we, as Texans, supposed to trust these agents of yours when you set the bar for murdering children as not a failure.”
After the oversight board session, a major Texas newspaper also called for McCraw’s resignation or firing.
“In the days since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, confronted by Uvalde parents on Thursday, has built a strong case for his resignation or dismissal,” the San Antonio Express said. Written news.
“McCraw needs to resign. And if he doesn’t, Abbott needs to fire him.”
The document describes how the victims’ relatives reminded McCraw that he had told CNN in September that he would resign if the soldiers had “any culpability” in the delayed response to the incident.
McCraw on Thursday did not provide further details about his agency’s internal review of the response, only reiterating that all DPS officers at the scene would be evaluated.
One officer, McCraw said, had resigned while under investigation and is ineligible to return to the department, while another is “in the process of being terminated right now.”
While McCraw admitted Thursday that his agency was not without blame, acknowledging that its officers were on the scene within minutes of the shooting, he did not immediately offer to resign.
Thursday’s session began with a public comment period, with five minutes per speaker, starting with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde and said calls for McCraw’s resignation are warranted.
Noting not only the officers’ mistakes on the day of the shooting, but the cascade of false information DPS released in the weeks since, Gutierrez said the shooting “shattered” Texans’ belief that “we could trust the word and actions of law enforcement”. -especially the Department of Public Security”.
In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group made up of some of the victims’ loved ones, expressed disappointment at Thursday’s meeting, saying it did not meet their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised an update on its investigation into the shooting at Robb Elementary School. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, in a bait and switch, they staged a glorified press conference and once again refused to accept responsibility for their failures.”
“We will not allow the Department to co-opt our pain and the deaths of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a real update on their investigation and to stay with the community affected by this tragic event.” he said.
Cross told CNN that the meeting was ridiculous and, “I’m upset that DPS continues to waste our time. … They’re not telling us anything.”
The meeting comes as the scourge of US school shootings shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 attacks reported on US campuses this year, including a high school student and teacher killed Monday in St. Louis.
McCraw’s remarks did little to assuage the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom addressed the principal before the meeting took a brief break and moved on to other business.
Cross pressed the director on his comments and said he would resign if DPS was found guilty, asking McCraw, “So your officers were in there within 10 minutes. Correct?”
“Yes,” McCraw said.
“Aren’t they representatives of your department?” Cross continued.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“So they’ve failed?” Cross asked.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“So DPS failed, so there’s culpability,” Cross said. “So if you’re a man of your word, then you’d back down.”
Thursday’s meeting marked McCraw’s first public testimony about the bloodshed in Uvalde since June, when before a state Senate committee he called the response to the shooting an “abject failure” but blamed largely to local and school district police, including the head of that agency, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who state authorities have said was the commander of the incident.
Arredondo, who has denied serving in that role, was fired in August, a move his attorney called an “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding that Arredondo should be reinstated, with all back pay and benefits .
Arredondo was one of five officers in the school district at Robb Elementary, while DPS had 91 personnel who responded to the shooting, most except the U.S. Border Patrol, according to a July report by an investigative committee of the state House of Representatives.
The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the response to the tragedy, beginning when its initial narrative was revealed days after the bloodshed and expanding when body camera footage was revealed to CNN that a DPS trooper arrived at Robb Elementary before agency leaders. would publicly acknowledge.
After an internal review of the actions of each DPS officer at the scene, the agency referred seven for investigation by the agency’s inspector general.
Among them is state police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to delay a team of officers from entering the classrooms, telling investigators he thought a more qualified team was being prepared, CNN reported.
Also included is Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell, who sources told investigators was focused on providing updates to his bosses and did not discuss options for breaching the classrooms. He is seen on surveillance and body camera footage talking on the phone and at one point appears to offer to negotiate with the gunman.
McCraw has denounced similar attempts at negotiation by Arredondo, calling it a “wrong decision.”
Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado received termination papers, DPS said Friday, with sources confirming to CNN that his termination was a result of his role in the response on the day of the shooting.
And former DPS trooper Crimson Elizondo took a job this summer with school district police, but was fired after CNN revealed he was among those under investigation.
Each of those officials declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.
The Public Safety Commission now includes four members, all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Meanwhile, many families of Uvalde’s victims have been campaigning for Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger who has invoked Uvalde’s response to argue that the governor’s term should end.