Uvalde Police Chief Resigns After Release of Report Defending School Shooting Response

A private investigator determined all Uvalde Police Department officers who responded to Robb Elementary School should be exonerated.
Published: March 14, 2024

ARTICLE UPDATE – 3/14/24:

Uvalde Police Department Chief Daniel Rodriguez announced his resignation days after a report commissioned by the City Council defended the actions of officers who responded to the Robb Elementary School shooting.

“After much contemplation and consideration, I believe it is time for me to embark on a new chapter in my career,” Rodriguez wrote in a statement Tuesday. “I have had the privilege of serving the City of Uvalde and its residents for the past 26 years, and it has been an honor to lead the dedicated men and women of our police department.”

Rodriguez, who was on vacation when the 2022 mass shooting claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers, told the Texas Tribune he was “not forced, asked, or pressured” to resign, and instead made the decision in the best interest of his family. He did not address the report or the shooting in his statement.

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The new report cleared all Uvalde police officers of wrongdoing, and at times praised those officers’ actions, despite previous audits of the police response that faulted all responding law enforcement agencies.

The report also noted Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, who has since left the department, was assigned as acting chief the day of the shooting. Rodriquez asked Pargas to set up a command post and keep him updated. Pargas did not set up a post. According to the federal government’s review of the response, which found “cascading failures” in law enforcement’s handling of the massacre, Pargas had no active shooter or incident command training.

A grand jury convened in January to begin investigating law enforcement’s response to determine whether criminal charges can be filed against any officials. No one has been charged to date.

Rodriguez’s resignation is set to take effect on April 6. Assistant Police Chief Homer Delgado will be named interim chief.


ORIGINAL POST – 3/8/24:

UVALDE, Texas — An independent report commissioned by Uvalde city leaders into the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting defended the action of Uvalde Police Department officers.

Prior investigations into the mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers found a multitude of errors by responding officers from various law enforcement agencies. A preliminary report released by the Texas House investigative committee in July 2022 detailed what officials describe as “systemic failures and egregious poor decision-making” by nearly everyone involved who was in a position of power.

The Department of Justice also released its findings in a Jan. 2024 report, determining law enforcement’s response was a “significant failure” and responding police officials “demonstrated no urgency.” Nearly 400 law enforcement agents, including more than two dozen from UPD, waited more than an hour to confront the gunman as children inside the classrooms called 911, begging for help.

“Had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in active shooter situations and gone right after the shooter and stopped him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said after the federal report was released.

Investigator: UPD Officers Showed ‘Immeasurable Strength’

Jesse Prado, the Austin-based investigator and former police detective who conducted the city’s investigation, shared his findings during a special city council meeting Thursday. Prado began the presentation by describing the failures made by responding local, state, and federal officers, according to AP. Failures included communication issues, poor training for active shooter events, lack of available equipment, and delays in breaching the classrooms.

“Officers responding to an active shooter incident must continually seek to eliminate the threat and enable victim response,” Prado wrote. “An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject.”

The city report notes that UPD’s SWAT team had not trained consistently since before the pandemic. Three UPD officers who were in the hallway during the shooting “were the leadership of the SWAT team and had the most experience with Uvalde PD.” The federal report said that 48 minutes after the shooter entered the school, UPD Acting Chief Mariano Pargas “continued to provide no direction, command or control to personnel.”

However, Prado determined UPD officers did not violate policies and said each officer should be “exonerated,” including Police Lieutenant Javier Martinez. Martinez was the highest-ranking police officer among those who entered the school. He rushed to the classroom but retreated after he was shot at and injured by the gunman. Prado said officers showed “immeasurable strength” and “level-headed thinking” as they were shot at.

Prado also noted families who rushed to the school and pleaded with officers to go inside hindered efforts to set up a chain of command.

”At times they were difficult to control,” he said. ” They were wanting to break through police barriers.”

Prado acknowledged it took longer than he expected to gather the necessary information to finalize the report.

“I had a lot of difficulty in gathering all of the evidence, gathering the information that I needed to complete a thorough examination of what these officers did,” he said.

The City of Uvalde sued District Attorney Christina Mitchell in Dec. 2022, accusing prosecutors of not being transparent and withholding records related to the shooting. Former Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has accused Mitchell of a “cover-up” and hindering the investigation, AP reports. Prado said he was provided some records but not all that he requested.

Uvalde Families Chastise Report Findings

Prado left immediately after presenting his findings but later returned to the meeting after attendees, including victims’ family members, demanded he come back.

“My daughter was left for dead. These officers signed up to do a job. They didn’t do it,” said Ruben Zamora. Ruben’s 11-year-old daughter, Mayah, was critically wounded in the shooting and spent 66 days in the hospital.

“There’s kids dead, teachers dead. Children who survived in the class bleeding, teachers who are never going to be the same. And you’re going to tell me nobody did anything wrong?” said Laura Garza, aunt of victim Amerie Jo Garza. “Shame on you. Shame on you.”

Uvalde City Council member Hector Luevano said he was “embarrassed” and “insulted” by the city’s report.

“These families deserve more. This community deserves more,” he said. “I don’t accept this report.”

Council member Ernest W. King III also said he was disappointed with the findings, CNN reports.

“I’ve been shaking for the last hour. I’m so pissed off about what happened,” he said. “We’ve not seen the report. This is the first time we’ve heard it… But I assure you this is not what we wanted and this did not happen how we thought it would happen.”

No law enforcement agents who responded to the shooting have faced criminal charges. At least five officers have lost their jobs, including two Department of Public Safety officers and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) on-site commander, Pete Arredondo.

“We keep getting kicked while we are down. No policy change will eliminate their fear and their hesitation to do what is right in the positions they serve,” Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed, said during the meeting. “I want you to think about the people that you love most in this world: your children, a spouse, a parent. You think about them huddled together in a dark room with a deranged person with an AR-15. Somebody calls 911. Help is on the way. Are these the people that you want responding to your loved ones? Guaranteed, it’s not.”

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