Facing calls for his resignation from victims’ relatives and a major newspaper, Texas Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw is not stepping down, saying at a meeting of the agency’s oversight board Thursday that his officers “have not failed.” The community of Uvalde during the May mass shooting in which 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed.
“If DPS as an organization fails families, fails the school or fails the Uvalde community, I absolutely have to go,” McCraw said at a Texas Public Safety Commission meeting. “But I can tell you this right now: DPS has not failed the community as an organization, plain and simple.”
McCraw’s comments came moments after several victims’ families called for his resignation following the referral of seven DPS officers to the agency’s inspector general investigation into the killing of 21 by a gunman at Robb Elementary. The worst US school shooting in nearly a decade.
About 400 officers from DPS and 22 other agencies responded to the Uvalde campus within minutes of the first shooting on May 24, with law enforcement waiting 77 minutes — in violation of standard active shooter protocol and training — before breaching adjacent classrooms to search for victims. and kills the 18-year-old gunman.
McCraw had previously vowed to “submit (his) resignation to the governor” if his department was found guilty of any wrongdoing in connection with the shooting.
“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his classmates and his teacher were murdered,” said Brett Cross, who was helping raise his 10-year-old nephew Ujia Garcia before the boy was killed in the shooting.
But as the clock ticked down, Cross said, “Many of the numbers are the same: 77 minutes later all 91 of you officers were waiting outside while our children were slaughtered.
“We can’t wait any longer. Our families, our community, our state have waited long enough. And playing politics puts the lives of many Texans at risk,” Cross said, adding, “I expect … your resignation immediately.”
Cross reiterated his call for McCraw to resign or be fired as governor on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.”
“They refuse to do what’s right, and that’s disgusting,” he told Cooper. “How are we supposed to believe, as Texans, that these officers of theirs are not failures when they set the bar for killing children.”
After the board of supervisors session, a major Texas newspaper called for McCraw’s resignation or firing.
“In the days following the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw confronted Uvalde parents Thursday, building a rock-solid case for their resignation or firing,” the San Antonio Express-News wrote.
“McCraw must resign. And if he doesn’t, Abbott should fire him.
The newspaper described how family members of the victims reminded McCraw that he had told CNN in September that he would resign if the troopers were found to have “any culpability” in the delayed response to the incident.
McCraw did not elaborate Thursday on his agency’s internal review of the response, reiterating that every DPS officer on the scene will be evaluated.
One officer, McCraw said, resigned while the investigation was under way and was not eligible to return to the department, while another was “in the process of termination right now.”
However, McCraw on Thursday acknowledged that his agency was not at fault — admitting that its officers were on the scene minutes after the shooting began — and he did not immediately offer to resign.
Thursday’s session began with a public comment period, five minutes per speaker, with state Sen. Uvalde representing Uvalde. Starting with Roland Gutierrez and said calls for McCraw’s resignation are warranted.
Pointing to not only the officers’ errors on the day of the shooting, but also a cascade of DPS misinformation over the weeks, Gutierrez said he “shattered” the faith of Texans “that we can trust the word and actions of law enforcement — especially the Department of Public Safety.”
In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group formed by some of the victims’ loved ones, expressed disappointment with Thursday’s meeting, suggesting it fell short of their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised an update on the investigation into the Robb Elementary School shooting. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, in a bait and switch, they hosted a glorified press conference and once again refused to accept responsibility for their failures.”
“We will not allow the department to contribute to our grief and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a real update on their investigation and organize it in the community affected by this tragic event,” it said.
Cross told CNN that the meeting was ridiculous and “I’m upset that DPS continues to waste our time. … They won’t tell us anything.
The meeting comes as the scourge of US school shootings shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 attacks reported on US campuses this year, including the killing of a high school student and a teacher in St. Louis on Monday.
McCraw’s remarks did little to dampen the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom took a brief break from addressing the director before the meeting before moving on to other business.
Cross pressed the director, who told him he would resign if DPS was found guilty, asking McCraw, “So your officers were there in 10 minutes. right?”
“Yes,” McCraw said.
“Aren’t they representatives of your department?” Cross continued.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“So, they failed?” Cross asked.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“Therefore, DPS has failed, therefore, there is crime,” Cross said. “So, if you’re a man of your word, you retire.”
Thursday’s meeting marked McCraw’s first public testimony about the bloodshed in Uvalde since June, before a state Senate committee, in which he labeled the shooting response an “absolute failure” — but placed much of the blame on local and school district police, including that agency’s chief, Pedro. Pete” Arredondo, state officials said, was the incident commander.
Arredondo, who denied he was in that role, was fired in August — a move his attorneys called an “unconstitutional public assassination.” Arredondo should be reinstated with all back pay and benefits.
According to a July report by a state House of Representatives investigative committee, Arredondo was one of five school district officers at Robb Elementary, while 91 DPS personnel responded to the shooting — more than the US Border Patrol.
The agency has been heavily scrutinized for its role in the disaster response, with its initial narrative in the days since the bloodshed unfolded, and when body camera footage was revealed to CNN, a DPS trooper arrived ahead of agency leaders at Robb Elementary. Accept publicly.
After an internal review of the actions of every DPS officer on the scene, seven people were referred by the agency for investigation by the agency’s inspector general.
Among them was state police Capt. Joel Betancourt, who tried to delay a team of officers from entering the classroom, telling investigators he thought a more skilled team was on its way, CNN reported.
That includes Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindel, who told investigators he focused on providing updates to his superiors and did not discuss options for breaching the classrooms. He is seen on surveillance cameras and body cameras talking on the phone, and at one point, offers to negotiate with the gunman.
McCraw has condemned similar attempts at negotiation by Arredondo, calling it a “misguided decision.”
Another of the seven, Sgt. DPS said Friday that Juan Maldonado was served with letters of dismissal, with sources confirming to CNN that his firing was the result of his role in the response on the day of the shooting.
And former DPS Trooper Crimson Elizando worked on the school district’s police force this summer, but was fired after CNN revealed he was among those under investigation.
Each of these officials declined or did not respond when contacted by CNN.
The Public Safety Commission now consists of four members — all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Many Uvalde victims’ families, meanwhile, are campaigning for Abbott’s Democratic rival, Beto O’Rourke, who has invited a Uvalde response in arguing that the governor’s term should end.