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Uvalde mayor says he’s in the dark on shooting investigation

Uvalde Mayor, Don McLaughlin, leaves the site of a memorial for the victims of one of the deadliest U.S. school shootings resulting in the death of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 29, 2022.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin leaves the site of a memorial for the shooting victims on May 29, 2022.

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The Uvalde City Council met Tuesday to extend the mayor’s emergency declaration as questions remain about law enforcement’s response to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary school that killed 19 children and two educators.

Notably absent from the meeting was the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, Pete Arredondo, who has been criticized for his slow response to the shooting.

Arredondowas sworn in as a city councilmember in a closed door meeting last week after winning an election earlier this year.

“I haven’t communicated with Pete Arredondo in a week – week and a half,” Mayor Don McLaughlin told reporters after the meeting.

McLaughlin also told TPR he didn’t know when Arredondo knew there were still people alive in the classroom with the shooter.

“I don't have any information to that. If I did, I would tell you,” McLaughlin said. “I believe in transparency, and if I knew anything that I could tell you, believe me, I would share it with you, but I don't.”

The mayor said he has not been briefed on the ongoing investigation into what happened.

“We asked for a briefing or something but we’re not getting it. I’ve been told that we’re not law enforcement and we’re not going to be entitled to it,” McLaughlin said. “It’s frustrating.”

Yet at the same time, the mayor said he has not asked his own city police chief for a briefing on the investigation, even though the city’s police department was at the school during the shooting.

McLaughlin did say the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the response at his request, will name a team as soon as Wednesday to investigate the police response.

He said he trusted law enforcement to do its job but acknowledged “missteps” on the part of the Texas Department of Public Safety in the days following the shooting.

“You know, we had some missteps, with the DPS releasing some facts and different things,” he said. “Well, we were told one thing one day, and the next day, the story, the narrative changed, you were told for a week the teacher propped the door open with a rock. And at the end of the week, that story was gone, too.”

The official narrative on the shooting has changed drastically several times in the last two weeks, adding to the anger and pain felt by the community following the school massacre.

It turned out the gunman spent more than an hour in the school, when DPS Director Steve McCraw originally claimed law enforcement “immediately breached” the school.

According to State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, 9-1-1 calls were being sent to the Uvalde Police Department rather than the Uvalde CISD Department, which led the response on the scene.

McLaughlin said the Uvalde police chief happened to be on vacation at the time of the shooting.

Among other things, Arredondo did not have a radio on him at the time of the shooting.

In the two weeks since the shooting, he has been silent.

When asked about Arredondo’s ability to serve on the council, McLaughlin said he couldn’t speak for him.

“Pete Arredondo was elected by the people in his district. So it's up to his district and his people. And it's up to Mr. Arredondo to what he wants to do. I can't speak for him. And I'm not going to try to speak for him. Why is he not here? Again, I can't answer that.”

McLaughlin defended his swearing in of Arredondo behind closed doors.

“I didn't think we needed a great big ceremony with people here in town out of respect for these families. So we did we had three councilmen swear in that day. We did it according to law. We did it just privately. We didn’t have a puppet show out of respect for these families,” McLaughlin said. “I didn't even want to have this meeting today. But we have to extend this declaration.”

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Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.