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UVALDE — For the past month and a half, Adam Martinez has been attending Uvalde City Council meetings in the grieving Texas town, hoping officials will explain why officers waited 77 minutes to confront and kill an 18-year-old gunman. years old who shot dead. 19 primary school students and two teachers on May 24.
Earlier this week, at the third city council meeting Martinez has attended since the state’s deadliest school shooting, he rose from his chair inside an auditorium to challenge Mayor Don McLaughlin’s criticism that surveillance footage showing officers waiting in a school hallway had been leaked to news outlets.
The mayor said the leak “was one of the most sissy things” he had ever seen. But what Martinez wanted to know was what McLaughlin thought of the officers’ inaction and whether any of them were going to be held accountable.
“I don’t want to get into the thick of it with you, Adam,” McLaughlin said from his seat between the other council members.
Martinez pressed him, and the mayor said every officer in the hallway should be held accountable.
“It’s confusing – we really don’t know who’s responsible,” said Martinez, whose 8-year-old son was at Robb Elementary School the day of the shooting.
The interaction between Martinez, 37, and McLaughlin highlights a prolonged — and growing — frustration that residents and relatives of the victims have felt for nearly two months since the horrific massacre. Residents of Uvalde, a town of about 15,000 west of San Antonio, say they can’t count on getting information from city, county or state leaders. State who for weeks have provided conflicting accounts, pointing fingers at each other’s law enforcement response and publicly arguing over why more details cannot be provided. Some residents relied on leaked news outlets for insight, and others took to social media.
Active shooter protocols train police to deal with mass shooters immediately. Victims’ families, Uvalde residents and elected leaders have questioned and criticized why police waited over an hour at Robb Elementary to confront the shooter. Law enforcement experts said several errors in judgment occurred during the response to Uvalde’s shooting.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, chairman of a state House committee investigating the shooting and the law enforcement response, had promised to show relatives of the victims the footage Sunday school surveillance – before they were made public. So it came as a shock to parents when the footage was released earlier this week by Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV and later released by national media. In a letter to the readers, the editor of the Statesman said the newspaper released the video to shed light on what happened and also removed the children’s screams.
For many relatives of victims, seeing the footage online has re-traumatized them, heightened their suspicions about the trust of those responsible and prompted them to question the judgments of news outlets.
Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio was killed, appeared at a Tuesday press conference in Washington, DC with parents of other victims and said he was not necessary that the video was leaked and released before they could see it again since it was coming out soon.
“We understand that the media wants to hold people accountable because the government hasn’t been transparent with us, but you don’t need the audio for that and you don’t need the full video for that. “, she said.
The Texas Tribune reviewed surveillance video from the hallway outside where the shooting occurred last month and released a detailed account of law enforcement’s belated response, but did not obtain a copy of the video and did not publish any.
The leaked video follows a series of changing stories and conflicting accounts of how the shooter entered the school, who led the police response and what delayed the shooter’s murder.
Last week, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University in San Marcos released a report that a police officer in Uvalde had the shooter in his sights and asked a supervisor for permission to shoot – but the supervisor did not hear the request or responded too late. ALERRT was asked by the state Department of Public Safety to review the response to the shooting.
Two days later, McLaughlin refuted the report.
“An officer from the Uvalde Police Department saw someone outside but was unsure who he saw and also observed children in the area,” McLaughlin said. “At the end of the day, it was a coach with kids on the playing field, not the shooter.”
John Curnutt, the deputy director of ALERRT, told CNN in a statement earlier this week that their findings were based on two statements by an officer that were later contradicted by a third statement.
“At the time we released our initial after-action, the information we had on this particular officer came from the officer’s two previous statements given to investigators,” he said in a statement. “We were unaware that just before we released our initial after-action, the officer made a third statement to investigators that was different from the first two statements.”
The day after the shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott said school police “engaged with the shooter” outside before the shooter entered the school. The next day, a DPS commander said the gunman entered the school unhindered by police. Abbott, in turn, said he was “livid” at being “misled”.
Uvalde Schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo defended the law enforcement response in an interview with the Tribune last month. Among other things, he said he and other officers tried to enter the adjacent classrooms where the shooter was, but the doors were reinforced and impenetrable. But none of those attempts were captured in school surveillance footage reviewed by the Tribune and some law enforcement officials are skeptical the doors were ever locked.
DPS Director Steve McCraw said Arredondo was the incident commander at the scene of the shooting and blamed him for deciding to “put the lives of the officers before the lives of the children.” Arredondo disputed that he was the incident commander. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, told The New York Times “there was no incident commander” and called the response “a complete system failure.”
And on Friday night, another case of law enforcement spats came to light when The New York Times reported that Uvalde officials had asked the DPS chief to sign a statement in June that would have praised police for his response to the shooting. McCraw declined, The Times reported.
On Sunday, the House committee investigating the incident is due to release its own report on the shooting and the police response.
But Martinez said the repeated back and forth made him distrust not only the media but official leaders as well. He said all he wanted to know was how the city was going to make sure this type of tragedy didn’t happen again. He said his son’s personality changed from playful and jovial to serious and anxious.
“They are not on the same wavelength. There’s a lack of communication, there’s incompetence, it all just doesn’t go together,” he said. “These are the people who are in charge of the school police, these are the people who are supposed to keep my child safe. But do you think I’ll feel good? Do you think I’ll feel safe? »
Some residents who didn’t have children in school also became frustrated.
Pastor Daniel Myers, who attended city council meetings, said he approached a Uvalde police officer to ask why the department did not publicly explain why officers waited so long to enter the classroom.
Myers said the officer replied, “If I talk, I’m going to jail. “So I said to him, ‘Go to jail then, but do the right thing.'”
“If it bothers me, if it annoys me and frustrates me, can you imagine how the parents feel?” said Myers.
Disclosure: The New York Times financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.
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