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In Uvalde, DPS puts self first

November 22, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

For the wounded children and teachers inside Rooms 111 and 112, help was a few feet away for more than an hour.

Videos show a clear path down the blue-and-green hallway to the classroom doors -- no physical barriers to keep law enforcement from rushing in to stop a young man with an AR-15-style rifle. But that gun hobbled and paralyzed the nearly 400 officers who responded to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24.

The videos crystallized a lack of urgency, indecision, unclear command and control, communication problems and poor leadership. They have also revealed a history of neglect in Uvalde, symbolized by inoperable radios. The result was the worst police response to a mass shooting in U.S. history.

Nearly six months since the murder of 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers, the failures of authorities before, during and after the killings are -- unbelievably -- still coming into focus. Accountability is slower yet.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District suspended its police operations and fired two officers, including Chief Pete Arredondo. Uvalde Police Department Lt. Mariano Pargas, the city's acting chief on May 24 who knew children were alive in the classrooms, resigned before being fired for his inaction. The Texas Department of Public Safety dismissed Sgt. Juan Maldonado, who arrived within minutes of the shooting, suspended two others and is investigating several more. For many Uvalde families, this isn't enough. We agree.

The lack of accountability, coupled with an official narrative that shifted blame from the DPS response, has been untenable.

DPS Director Steve McCraw quickly blamed Arredondo, but hundreds of law enforcement officers, including 91 from DPS, failed to intervene. Arredondo bears responsibility, but he is not alone.

DPS' misinformation, blame-shifting and lack of transparency hid the truth, further harming the victims' families and public understanding.

With each revelation about the failed response, the need for accountability grows. The buck should stop with McCraw, who should resign or be fired. But the story of the state's neglect in Uvalde stretches back years, exemplified in the failure to provide a robust emergency radio system for the region.

-- San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 18

Print Headline: In Uvalde, DPS puts self first

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