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Uvalde victims' families livid as city report on mass shooting fails to fault responding officers

 A vigil for the victims if the Uvalde school shooting outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Friday, May 27
Bri Kirkham
A vigil for the victims if the Uvalde school shooting outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Friday, May 27

The City of Uvalde’s long-awaited independent investigation into its police response to the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School found that, despite failures in communication and leadership, the city agents who responded acted in “good faith.”

The report, which was released at a meeting on Thursday, comes 20 months after the city launched its investigation.

Jesse Prado, the former Austin Police Department detective hired by Uvalde to conduct the investigation, said he would have recommended to “exonerate” Mariano Pargas, acting chief of the Uvalde Police Department on the day of the shooting.

Pargas ultimately resigned from the police department in November 2022. He’s now a county commissioner.

Family members of the 19 kids and two teachers killed in the shooting had hoped the Uvalde investigation could lead to the termination of responding officers.

Some 370 law enforcement personnel from 23 different agencies responded to the shooting, but waited more than an hour to confront and kill the gunman. Of those, 25 were from the Uvalde Police Department.

The city’s report found that none of the 25 agents violated policy while responding.

Berlina Arreola, whose goddaughter Amerie Jo was killed in the shooting, asked the City Council whether they’d “trust somebody that wouldn’t even protect a child.”

“How are we going to be able to trust your department if they did nothing to protect these children?” she asked.

This is the third report released into the shooting at Robb Elementary School. The earlier two came from the Texas House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The federal government did find "cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training.”

Thursday’s meeting where the report was unveiled was full of high emotions.

Prado blamed Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell for the 20-month delay. He said Mitchell didn’t provide the evidence needed in a timely manner.

Prado also said that one of the issues the day of the shooting stemmed from the crowd of family members who showed up to Robb Elementary School after hearing about the shooting.

“At times, they were difficult to control, they were wanting to break through police barriers,” Prado said. He added police had to make sure nobody else in the crowd would be injured.

After Prado finished presenting his findings and answering questions from the council’s attorney, he stood up and left the meeting.

The parents of the victims shouted, calling him a coward and demanding he be brought back to answer questions. Prado ended up returning and said he was merely “following the directions I was given.”

He did not respond to accusations from parents.

“How dare you?” Kim Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed in the shooting, shouted while staring at Prado.

Felicia Martinez, who lost his son Xavier in the shooting, pushed back against Prado’s assertions that parents outside the school made it difficult to secure the scene.

“We were willing to go into that school and get our children out — taking our life for our children,” Martinez said.

At least two council members — Ernest King, and Hector Luevano — said the report presented was unacceptable.

“I am embarrassed, I’m insulted — these families deserve to know, deserve these answers, they need to have a responsive explanation,” Luevano said. “For you to come here and say ‘No, everything was hunky-dory and they did their job’, I can’t accept that.”

Copyright 2024 KUT News

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.