Law enforcement officers obstruct the view from members of the press during the joint funeral service for teacher Irma Garcia and her husband Joe Garcia on June 01, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Irma Garcia was killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School and her husband died a few days later. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images.
BY WILLIAM MELHADO
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin on Tuesday accused state authorities of
selectively releasing information about last month’s school shooting to
scapegoat local law enforcement and intentionally leaving out details
about the state’s response to the massacre.
New details emerged this week about the timeline of the shooting based on
surveillance video from the school’s hallways and a transcript of
officers’ body cameras. The records show that officers might not have
attempted to open the doors of the classrooms where the gunman had holed
up with victims. During a state Senate committee held earlier Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director
Steve McCraw told lawmakers that law enforcement’s response to the
Uvalde school shooting
was an “abject failure.”
McLaughlin lambasted McCraw for what he described as a selective release
of information about the investigation, focusing on blaming local law
enforcement and leaving out the role of McCraw’s agency during the
“McCraw has continued to, whether you want to call it, lie, leak … mislead
or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and rangers
from the response,” McLaughlin said Tuesday evening.
McLaughlin said none of the entities with information about the
investigation into the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School — DPS,
the Texas Legislature, the Uvalde County District Attorney’s office and
the FBI — have briefed Uvalde city officials about their findings.
McLaughlin said he had been asked to refrain from sharing details about
the investigation while it was ongoing but said Tuesday he would now start
releasing that information as it became available to city officials.
“The gloves are off. If we know it, we will share it,” he said.
McLaughlin’s comments at a special City Council meeting seemed to
contradict a press release issued just hours before, in which the mayor
had said city officials would refrain from commenting on the investigation
“or reacting to every story attributed to unnamed sources or sources close
to the investigation.”
The special meeting was held in part to discuss whether to grant a leave
of absence for Pete Arredondo, the newly elected City Council member who
also serves as the chief of police of the city’s school district and has
been criticized for his role in the law enforcement response to the
shooting. Local leaders unanimously denied giving him the leave of absence
from future council meetings.
Arredondo was not present during Tuesday’s special meeting. He testified
in closed session to a state House committee on Tuesday in Austin, though
it was not clear if Arredondo requested the leave of absence from City
If Arredondo fails to show up for three consecutive meetings without
obtaining a leave of absence, he will forfeit his position as a council
member for Uvalde’s District 3, per the city’s charter.
The council’s vote followed some of the community’s most forceful public
calls for accountability and transparency about the details of the May 24
shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Law enforcement
officers who responded to the shooting — and in particular Arredondo, who
has been labeled by state officials as the “incident commander” on the
scene — have been under fire for taking over an hour to engage and take
down the shooter.
Arredondo’s account of the events differs in some key aspects from the information gleaned from
records and law enforcement statements. He told The Texas Tribune he
attempted to open the classrooms’ doors but they were locked. He has also
said he did not consider himself to be the incident commander at the
Residents on Tuesday also expressed anger at city officials’ silence after
the shooting and what seemed like their support of Arredondo. Some people
in the crowd held signs that read, “Fire Pete” and “Hey, Pete. Get Out.”
Uvalde resident Brett Cross called for Arredondo’s removal and demanded
that the council respond to the community’s calls for accountability and
transparency, saying, “If I failed my job I’d get fired, and that would
apply for anyone here.”
Before the council’s vote, Berlinda Arreola, grandmother of 10-year-old
Amerie Jo Garza, who was killed in last month’s shooting, said that the
days since May 24 have been a rollercoaster of emotions. The hurt and
anger she’s since felt get “worse and worse,” she said.
Arreola called for Arredondo’s removal from the council, saying, “Do what
you have to do but get him out of our faces.”
Jesus Rizo, the uncle of another victim, 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, said,
“At one point or another, ladies and gentlemen, we have to determine
what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Rizo, who called himself Arredondo’s friend and McLaughlin’s neighbor,
added that he wants the mayor to be as forceful holding people accountable
as he was when he rebuked gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke when
he interrupted a press conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott about the shooting.
Rogelio Muñoz, a former Uvalde council member who previously represented
Arredondo’s district, expressed concern over the city’s handling of public
“The community needs you to be advocates. These families need you to be
advocates,” Muñoz said.
Ariana Perez-Castells contributed to this story, which was originally
published in The Texas Tribune
on June 21, 2022. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media
organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public
policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.
The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.