Faced with calls for his resignation from victims’ relatives and a major newspaper, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Stephen McCraw is not stepping down, telling the agency’s oversight board Thursday that his officers “did not fail. community” during the Uvalde mass shooting in May, in which 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers were killed.
“If DPS as an institution failed the families, the school, or the Uvalde community, then I have to go,” McCraw said at a hearing of the Texas Public Safety Commission. “But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution did not beat the public right now, plain and simple.”
Makraw’s comments, which came moments after the families of several victims demanded his resignation, follow the dispatch of seven DPS officers to an investigation by the agency’s inspector general into what they did or didn’t do after a gunman killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School. the worst US school shooting in nearly a decade.
While nearly 400 officers from DPS and 22 other agencies arrived on the Uvalde campus on May 24, which began within minutes of the first shots, law enforcement officers waited 77 minutes, violating standard active shooter protocol and training, before breaking into nearby classrooms to find the victims. and kills the 18-year-old assailant.
McCraw had previously vowed to “demand (his) resignation to the governor” if his department was found guilty of the shooting.
“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his classmates and his teachers were murdered,” said Brett Cross, who was helping raise his 10-year-old nephew Uzzie Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting.
But as the clock ticks down, Cross said: “Several numbers remain the same: 77 minutes, 91 of you officers all waited outside while our children were slaughtered.
“We’re not waiting any longer. Our families, our community, our country have waited long enough. And playing politics will put the lives of many Texans at risk,” Cross said, adding, “I expect you to step down immediately.”
Cross repeatedly called 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 like, it’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How are we as Texans supposed to trust these officers of his when he set the bar for killing children as a failure.”
After the oversight board meeting, a prominent Texas newspaper also called for McCraw to resign or be fired.
“In the days since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraws, confronted by Uvalde parents Thursday, has built a compelling case for his resignation or firing,” the San Antonio Express said. News wrote.
“McRowe has to step down. And if he doesn’t, Abbott has to fire him.
The paper described how family members of the victims reminded McCraw that he had told CNN in September that he would resign if the troopers were “at fault” for the delayed response to the incident.
McCraw did not provide details Thursday about his agency’s internal review of the response, only reiterating that every DPS officer on the scene will be evaluated.
McCraw said one officer had resigned during the investigation and was ineligible to return to the department, while another was “currently in the process of termination.”
However, while McCraw acknowledged 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 in which each speaker had five minutes, starting with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvaldi, who said calls for McCraw’s resignation were valid.
Pointing not only to mistakes made by officers on the day of the shooting, but also to a series of false information released by DPS in the weeks since, Gutierrez said the shooting “shatters the confidence” of Texans “that we can trust the word and actions of law enforcement — especially the Department of Public Safety.”
In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group made up of some of the victims’ relatives, expressed disappointment at Thursday’s meeting, saying it did not meet their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised to update the investigation into the shooting at Robb Elementary School. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, they held a laudatory press conference and again refused to take responsibility for their failures.”
“We will not allow the department to condone our grief and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a real update on their investigation and ensure that it is conducted in the community affected by this tragic event,” it 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 such attacks reported on US campuses this year, including the killing of a high school student and teacher in St Louis on Monday.
McCraw’s remarks did little to quell the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom addressed the principal before the meeting adjourned briefly and moved on to other business.
Cross pressed the director on his comments, saying he would resign if DPS was found guilty, and asked Macraw, “So your officers were there within 10 minutes. Right?”
“Yes,” McRae said.
“Aren’t they from your department?” Cross continued.
“Absolutely,” McRae said.
“That’s why they failed?” Cross asked.
“Absolutely,” McRae said.
“That’s why DPS failed, that’s why it’s at fault,” Cross said. “So if you’re a sane person, you’d retire.”
Thursday’s meeting marked McCraw’s first public testimony about the bloodshed in Uvalde since June, when he called the response to the shooting “failed” before a state Senate committee but largely blamed local and school district police, including that agency’s chief, Pedro. Pete” Arredondo, who state authorities have identified as the incident commander.
Arredondo, who has denied serving in that role, was fired in August in what his attorney called an “unconstitutional public lynching,” adding that Arredondo should be reinstated with all back pay and benefits.
According to a July report by the state House Investigative Committee, Arredondo was one of five school district employees at Robb Elementary School, while DPS had 91 personnel who responded to the shooting, excluding the U.S. Border Patrol.
The agency has come under increasing scrutiny over its role in the response to the tragedy, beginning when its initial account of it was revealed in the days after the bloodshed and expanding when body camera footage revealed to CNN that a DPS trooper arrived at Rob Elementary School earlier than agency managers. publicly acknowledged.
After each DPS officer’s actions at the scene, the internal review agency referred seven for investigation to the agency’s inspector general.
Among them is state police Capt. Joel Bettencourt, who tried to delay a team of officers from entering the classrooms, telling investigators he believed a more skilled team was on the way, CNN reported.
Also included is Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindel, who sources told investigators was focused on updating his superiors and did not discuss the possibility of breaching the grades. He is seen on surveillance and body camera footage talking on the phone and at one point apparently offered to talk to the gunman.
McCraw has condemned similar attempts by Arredondo to negotiate, calling it a “bad decision.”
Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado was served with termination papers, DPS said Friday, and sources confirmed to CNN that his firing was for his role in the response on the day of the shooting.
And former DPS trooper Crimsone Elizondo took a job with the school district’s police this summer, but was fired after CNN revealed she was among those under investigation.
Each of those employees either declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.
The Public Safety Commission now has four members, all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Meanwhile, many of Uvald’s victims’ families have championed Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger, who has cited Uvald’s response as saying the governor’s term should end.