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'We did it!' — Uvalde's entire school police department suspended following activism from families

David Martin Davies
Texas Public Radio
Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, celebrated the news that the entire Uvalde CISD police department was suspended on Friday October 7, 2022.

UVALDE — Officials with the Uvalde school district on Friday announced that it suspended its police force and that two high-ranking officials have been placed on administrative leave.

The announcement came after some family members of victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School protested and even camped out at the district headquarters demanding accountability from the law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.

“As a result of the recent developments, Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller have been placed on administrative leave, and the District has made the decision to suspend all activities of the Uvalde CISD Police Department for a period of time,” district officials said in a news release." Officers currently employed will fill other roles in the district.”

Mueller, who served as the district’s director of student services, has elected to retire, the statement added.

The announcement added to the fallout from the shooting in late May when an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers before being shot and killed by law enforcement officers.

Investigations into the shooting revealed that officers waited for more than an hour before engaging the shooter, even as survivors were trapped inside classrooms and pleaded with 911 dispatchers for help.

David Martin Davies
Texas Public Radio
A line of backpacks symbolize the lost students of Robb Elementary School, part of the victims families' protest.

Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, celebrated the news on Twitter. Cross was Garcia’s uncle and guardian but refers to him as his son.

“245 hr update!!! We did it! And we are going home!” he Tweeted, referring to the 10 days he was camped out at the district headquarters demanding action. Cross added: "They weren't going to make a liar out of me again.”

Cross previously said school district officials made a liar out of him when he promised his son he would always protect him.

The decision to suspend the school district police department comes a day after the district announced the termination of Crimson Elizondo, a newly hired UCISD police officer who previously worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety as a state trooper.

In the news release announcing the suspension, Uvalde CISD officials said they had been waiting to make decisions about the police department “pending the results” of an investigation into UCISD PD’s procedures and the actions of UCISD PD officers on May 24, but that “recent developments have uncovered additional concerns with department operations.”

On Wednesday evening, a CNN investigation revealed that Elizondo was one of the first state troopers to respond to the shooting at Robb Elementary, and one of the seven state troopers referred to internal affairs for their actions during the shooting.

According to documents provided to CNN, DPS notified UCISD PD’s acting police chief, Mike Hernandez, on July 28 that Elizondo was under internal investigation for “actions not consistent with training.”

David Martin Davies
Texas Public Radio

School district officials added that it asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide additional officers to provide security for campus and extra-curricular activities.

“We are confident that staff and student safety will not be compromised during this transition,” officials said in a statement.

The victims' families plan to continue their protest Monday at the Uvalde CISD school board meeting, where Superintendent Hal Harrell is expected to announce his retirement.

And after that, they plan to continue their activism on gun reform. The victims' families have been pushing Texas to raise the age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21, something Gov. Greg Abbott has called unconstitutional.

"It's on a small level. We're focused on Uvalde. But look at what happened. We're stronger in large numbers," said Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter Lexi Rubio was killed in the shooting. "So, if we can get behind this for gun reform, think what we can do."

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.
David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi