AUSTIN, Texas — At a Public Safety Commission meeting Thursday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said his agency “did not fail” the Uvalde community in its response to the May 24 mass school shooting.
He seemed to be clarifying statements he made to news outlets weeks ago. On Sept. 9, McCraw told CNN he would resign if his troopers had “any culpability” in the flawed police response to the school shooting at Robb Elementary in May.
On Sept. 15, in an exclusive interview with KVUE’s Tony Plohetski, McCraw said, “We have some level of culpability. I've got no doubt. To the extent that the Department of Public Safety is responsible for the failed response – there are some things I just can't admit to, simply because it's not true. And I'm not in a position right now to try to defend what DPS did or not.”
McCraw also shared Thursday that another trooper is in the termination process, following an investigation into the trooper's actions at the scene of the Robb Elementary shooting.
Last week, the DPS fired the first trooper in connection with the shooting, Sgt. Juan Maldonado, who was one of the first troopers to arrive to the school. DPS said in September that at least five troopers were under investigation for their conduct that day.
"Uvalde Update" and "Director’s Report" were listed in Thursday's agenda for the Public Safety Commission, which oversees the DPS. The meeting consisted mostly of public comment during the "Uvalde Update" portion. McCraw said he had nothing more to discuss when the meeting moved on to Director's Report.
Those who spoke during the meeting included family members of some of the children lost in the shooting and State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde.
At moments, the meeting became emotional and heated.
All who spoke called on McCraw to resign or retire and were critical of his agency's lack of transparency.
“The only way to move forward is to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Gutierrez said during his first time at the podium.
Gutierrez ensured he and the affected families would continue to fight for justice and accountability.
“You might just see three of [the families] here, but I promise they are mighty and come with force,” Gutierrez said.
Brett Cross, uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, a student who also died at Robb Elementary, called McCraw a “disgrace” and listed every shooting victim by name.
An aunt and uncle of Jacklyn Cazares, who also died at Robb Elementary, told McCraw that because of his misinformation, he “lit a match and set Uvalde on fire.”
During McCraw’s turn to speak, he began by stating the hardest thing he ever had to do was “stand up there and say we failed.”
“I made it clear: We’re going to investigate every officer. Due process,” McCraw said. “I can tell you this: If DPS, as an institution, failed the families, failed the school, or failed the community, or the city of Uvalde – then yes, I need to go. But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution, right now, did not fail the community – plain and simple.”
When McCraw finished, he asked the commissioners to allow time for the families of the victims to respond to him directly.
Cross was quick to the podium and could be heard saying, “You’re [expletive] right.”
“Your officers were in [the school] within 10 minutes, correct? Are they not representatives of your department?” Cross asked McCraw.
“Absolutely,” McCraw said.
“Therefore, they failed?” Cross asked.
“Yes, absolutely.” McCraw said.
“Therefore, DPS failed. Therefore, there was culpability. Therefore, if you’re a man of your word, then you would retire,” Cross said.
Tension was especially high when Gutierrez took the podium a second time. Addressing McCraw directly, he agreed that they used to be friends, but now there is little to no communication.
“I’d like to change that,” McCraw said.
Gutierrez criticized having to sign a non-disclosure agreement every time he tried to speak with McCraw. He went on to call it a poor excuse that the DPS would not release investigation information at the discretion of Uvalde’s district attorney.
“She told [the families] no one would be indicted. So, if no one is being indicted, then what are we doing?” Gutierrez asked. “You’re holding information that these people want to see. They don’t want to see their dead kids. They don’t want to see any of that. They want to know who failed, and who failed is every law enforcement agency at the scene.”
In a statement, Lives Robbed, a group formed by some of the victims’ loved ones, expressed disappointment about Thursday’s meeting, indicating it fell short of their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety promised an update into their investigation of 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 co-opt our grief, and the death of our children. We call upon the Department of Public Safety and the commission to provide a real update of their investigation, and for it to be hosted in the community impacted by this tragic event,” the statement continued.
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