In the face of calls from victims’ relatives and a major newspaper for his resignation, Colonel Steven McGraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, did not resign, he said at Thursday’s meeting of the agency’s oversight committee that his officials ‘No Failure Uwald Community’ 19 fourth graders and 2 teachers were killed in a mass shooting in May.
“If DPS as an agency fails families, fails schools, or fails the Uvalde community, then I absolutely need to leave,” McGraw said at a meeting of the Texas Public Safety Commission. “But I can tell you right now: DPS as an institution has not let the community down right now, plain and simple.”
McGraw’s comments came shortly after several of the victims’ families called for him to resign, after seven DPS officials referred the agency’s inspector general to investigate what they did or didn’t do after a gunman killed Rob. Elementary school killed 21 in the worst US school shooting in nearly a decade.
While nearly 400 officers from the DPS and 22 other agencies began responding to the Uvalde campus on May 24 within minutes of the first shooting, law enforcement waited 77 minutes — a violation of the active shooter protocol normally held and Training – before breaking out of an adjacent classroom to find victims and kill the 18-year-old shooter.
McGraw has previously vowed to “offer (his) resignation to the governor” if his department is found guilty of any shootings.
“It’s been five months and three days since my son, his classmates and his teacher were murdered,” said Brett Cross, who is helping raise his 10-year-old nephew Uzia Garcia, then boy killed in a shooting.
But as the hours passed, Cross said: “A few numbers remain the same: 91 of you officers waited outside for 77 minutes when our children were slaughtered.
“We’re not waiting anymore. Our families, our communities, our state have waited long enough. Playing politics will only put more Texan lives at risk,” Cross said, adding , “I hope… you resign immediately.”
Cross on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” repeated his call for McGraw to resign or be fired by the governor.
“He just refuses to do the right thing, which is disgusting,” he told Cooper. “You know, as Texans, how are we supposed to trust these officers of his when he made the murder of a child not a failure.”
Following the oversight committee meeting, a prominent Texas newspaper also called for McGraw to resign or be fired.
“In the days since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McGraw confronted Uvalde’s parents on Thursday, setting up a solid case for his resignation or firing. A rock-solid case,” the San Antonio Express-News wrote.
“McGraw has to resign. If he doesn’t, Abbott has to fire him.”
The paper described how the victim’s family reminded McGraw, who told CNN in September that he would resign if soldiers had “any culpability” for the delayed response to the incident.
On Thursday, McGraw did not provide further details about his agency’s internal review of the response, other than reiterating that every DPS officer on the scene would be assessed.
One officer resigned while under investigation and was ineligible to return to the department, while another was “currently in termination proceedings,” McGraw said.
However, while McGraw acknowledged on Thursday that his agency was not without fault — admitting that its officers were at the scene within minutes of the shooting starting — he did not immediately offer to resign.
Thursday’s meeting began with a public comment period that gave each speaker five minutes to speak, starting with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represented Uwald, who said calling for McGraw to resign was an Makes sense.
Not only did Gutierrez point to police errors on the day of the shooting, but also a flurry of false information released by the DPS weeks later, saying the shooting “shattered” Texans’ belief that “we can trust the words and actions of law enforcement” — Especially the Department of Public Safety. ”
In a statement, Life Heist, a group made up of relatives of some of the victims, expressed disappointment at Thursday’s meeting, suggesting it fell short of their expectations.
“Today, the Department of Public Safety committed to updating their investigation into the Rob Elementary School shooting. That did not happen,” the statement said. “Instead, they held a glorified press conference in Bait and Switch and again refused to take responsibility for their failure.”
“We will not allow the department to choose our grief and the death of our children. We call on the Department of Public Safety and the Commission to provide a true update of their investigation and host it in the communities affected by this tragic event,” it said.
Cross told CNN that the meeting was absurd, “I’m upset that DPS continues to waste our time. … They didn’t tell us anything.”
The meeting comes as the scourge of school shootings in the U.S. shows no signs of abating, with at least 67 such attacks reported on U.S. schools this year, including the killing of a high school student and a teacher in St. Louis on Monday.
McGraw’s remarks did not quell the anger of the victims’ families, some of whom spoke to the director before the meeting was briefly adjourned before moving on to other things.
Cross pressured the supervisor over his comments that he would resign if DPS was found guilty, and asked McGraw, “So your officers were there in 10 minutes. Right?”
“Yes,” McGraw said.
“Aren’t they representatives of your department?” Cross continued.
“Of course,” McGraw said.
“So, they failed?” Cross asked.
“Of course,” McGraw said.
“So DPS failed, so that’s the culprit,” Cross said. “So if you’re a person who keeps your word, you’re going to retire.”
Thursday’s meeting marked McGraw’s first public testimony about Uwald’s bloodshed since June, when he called the shooting response a “fiasco” before a state Senate committee — but largely blamed local and school district police, That included the agency’s head, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, whom state authorities said was the incident commander.
Arredondo, who denies having held the position, was fired in August — a move his lawyers called an “unconstitutional public lynching”, adding that Arredondo should be reinstated and paid all back wages and benefits.
Arredondo was one of five school district officials at Rob Elementary School, while 91 DPS personnel responded to the shooting — in addition to the U.S. Border Patrol, according to a July report by the state House of Representatives investigative committee , the most is.
The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in responding to the tragedy, starting with its initial narrative being unraveled in the days following the bloodshed and revealed to CNN in body camera footage that a DPS Soldiers extended public recognition when they arrived at Rob Elementary School earlier than agency leaders.
Following an internal review of the conduct of each DPS officer at the scene, the agency referred the seven to the agency’s inspector general for investigation.
That included state trooper Captain Joel Betancourt, who tried to prevent a team of officers from entering the classroom and told investigators he believed a more skilled team was coming, CNN reported.
Also included is Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kinder, who sources told investigators focused on providing updates to his bosses and did not discuss options for disrupting the classroom. He can be seen speaking on the phone in footage from surveillance cameras and body cameras, and at one point apparently offered to negotiate with the gunman.
McGraw condemned Arredondo’s similar negotiating attempt, calling it a “wrong decision.”
Another of the seven, Sgt. Juan Maldonado received dismissal documents, the DPS said Friday, and sources confirmed to CNN that he was fired due to his role in his response on the day of the shooting.
Former DPS officer Crimson Elizondo got a job with the school district police force this summer but was fired after CNN revealed she was one of those under investigation.
Each of these officials either declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by CNN.
The Public Safety Committee now includes four members – all appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. Meanwhile, the families of many Uvalde victims have been campaigning for Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic rival, who cited Uvalde’s response, arguing that the governor’s term should end.