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Calls grow louder for Texas’ top safety official to resign after Uvalde massacre

 Family members of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting march in Uvalde on July 10, 2022.
Camille Phillips
Family members of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting march in Uvalde on July 10, 2022.

Of the over 300 officers who responded to the shooting in May, 91 were with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

It’s been five months since a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, and calls for the state’s top law enforcement official to resign are only growing louder.

The editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News gave Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw on Thursday night two options: resign or be fired.

Earlier that day, Congressman Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, tweeted McCraw “should RESIGN immediately.”

Families of the victims of the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history have also called for McCraw’s resignation, frustrated that the Department of Public Safety has yet to release its findings of an investigation into police response to the shooting.

“We are trying to put this puzzle together and we are getting it piece by piece and it’s scattered — it never really makes sense,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of 10-year-old victim Lexi, told The Texas Newsroom Thursday. “And it always alters each time another piece of information comes in.”

More than 300 law enforcement agents responded to the scene in Uvalde on May 24, but they waited over 70 minutes to kill the shooter.

Ninety-one of those officers were with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Many of McCraw's officers arrived within minutes, including a handful just two minutes after the shooter entered the school.

None confronted the gunman. Instead, they waited

Manuel Rizo, the uncle of 9-year-old victim Jacklyn, has been part of the group of family members calling for McCraw’s resignation.

“All we are trying to do is prevent this from happening again, at the same time holding people responsible and accountable for their inactions,” Rizo told The Texas Newsroom. “What would you or anybody do as a father, mother, grandparent if this happened to you?”

Since the shooting, DPS’ narrative has shifted.

Initially, McCraw placed blame on Pete Arredondo, the former Uvalde Schools chief of police.

This week, McCraw said that if DPS had failed the community or the families, he should go.

“But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution didn’t fail the community,” McCraw said during a public meeting Thursday morning. “There were actions — and I can tell you — there are things that we aren’t proud about.”

Like not confronting the shooter within the first 10 minutes, McCraw said.

Rizo, the uncle of Jacklyn, calls McCraw’s refusal to step down “confusing.”

“I don’t understand how he can say DPS didn’t fail the community, yet he said they should’ve taken him out within 10 minutes,” Rizo said. “So, it’s contradicting, but we are used to it. We are used to hearing that.”

Tracy Walder, a former CIA officer and FBI special agent based in Dallas, said the way DPS has acted — during the shooting and in the aftermath — is inexcusable.

“I don’t know that we’ve had a school shooting, a mass shooting, such as this where the investigation has been so muddled and confused,” Walder said.

She added that the responding agencies need to recognize they had the power to act — and that they didn’t need to wait for their supervisors’ approval.

Some states have changed how they train officers to respond to school shootings in the wake of Columbine, when it took officers 40 minutes to enter the school while they waited for SWAT backup. Now, police in states like Colorado try to stop active-shooter situations as soon as they arrive on the scene.

“The police are organized through a military model, but they do have a lot of discretion that they can employ in terms of solving situations themselves,” Walder said. “No one really employed discretion in this case, and to me, that’s a problem.”

Small moves toward accountability have been made. DPS fired one of the responding sergeants. Six other officers are under investigation.

But most of that information has become public through news reports — not DPS officials.

Walder said the lack of transparency is problematic.

“When you are in a position that your job is to protect the community and protect the citizens of the city, the state, the school, whatever it is, and people don’t have trust in you to do that, that represents a significant problem,” Walder said.

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports on Texas politics and government for The Texas Newsroom.