Uvalde Officers Who Parents Say 'Failed' Schoolchildren in Mass Shooting Will Return to Campus
"People were angry. When people asked about the police officers involved, and (learned) they hadn't been investigated ... that was very disappointing to us," Jesus Rizo, the uncle of slain 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, told Inside Edition Digital.
Parents expressed outrage after learning this week that some officers who "failed" their children during May's mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas will be back on campus when classes resume next week.
At school district meetings held Monday, parents yelled at board members and said it was "unbelievable" that officers roundly criticized for waiting more than an hour to confront a lone shooter who shot and killed 19 children and two teachers in one of the worst school massacres in American history would be allowed to return to the campus.
"I continue to not understand how the school board and administration can believe... our children are going to be safe?" said lifelong Uvalde resident Diana Oveldo-Karau. "Those are the people that failed us."
"We've been waiting over three months for y'all to do (something)," yelled Brett Cross, the uncle and legal guardian of Uziyah Garcia, a 10-year-old student shot to death inside his fourth-grade classroom.
Damning bodycam footage and a scathing government report showed in June that nearly 400 law enforcement officers converged on the school, but did not stop the 18-year-old gunman for more than 70 minutes because of “egregiously poor decision making."
The disturbing findings of a Texas House investigative committee criticized federal, state, local and school police officers who stood outside two fourth-grade classrooms while the shooting continued.
The video showed officers yelling and waiting around for orders to take down the gunman, who could be heard firing rounds.
Tensions ran high during three back-to-back hearings Monday hosted by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District as board members outlined measures they've approved to increase security when classes start Sept. 6.
The outstanding security measures approved by the board include: installing hundreds of new security cameras, fortifying entry points to the school, fencing the campus and hiring a promised number of counselors and police officers. But after repeated pushing from parents about the status of those measures, board members acknowledged that many were not put in place or completed.
"Y'all make it abundantly clear that y'all don't care," Cross said, arguing they haven't done enough to protect the schools. "Y'all don't care ... And you want to know why? It's because y'alls' lives weren't robbed."
Board members said the delays were caused by supply chain problems and other roadblocks.
Parents and relatives seemed most disturbed by the knowledge that a planned audit of school district police who responded to the shooting had not begun, three months after the massacre.
"People were yelling. People were angry. When people asked about the police officers involved, and (learned) they hadn't been investigated ... that was very disappointing to us," Jesus Rizo, the uncle of slain 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, told Inside Edition Digital on Tuesday.
"It's almost like they're trying to hide something," Rizo said of the seemingly slow response of school officials. "How can you fix things in the future if you don't understand what happened in the past?"
Superintendent Hal Harrell told residents at the meeting that the review of school officers' conduct had been delayed because the board prioritized the evaluation of school police chief Pete Arredondo, who was fired last week after months of condemnation by parents who had been demanding his termination.
Arredondo received some of the most damning criticism in the Texas legislative investigation. The review found the chief failed to take command at the scene. First responders “lost critical momentum” by treating the situation as a "barricaded subject" scenario instead of an "active shooter," the report said. Arredondo “did not assume his pre-assigned responsibility of incident command,” investigators said.
Arredondo has said he did not consider himself the officer in charge, and has steadfastly said he did the best he could under confusing circumstances.
The superintendent told residents at the meetings that he would consult with law enforcement agencies to determine how many of officers present at the shooting would be returning to the campus next week.
Also on Monday, more than a dozen major news agencies announced they had sued the state, the City of Uvalde, the school district and the local sheriff’s department for denying media requests for records about the mass shooting.
The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Texas Tribune, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and others are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Authorities have denied more than 70 requests made citing the Texas Public Information Act, which mandates the release of government information in the interest of the public. The departments declined to release call logs, body camera footage, interview notes and other documents, saying doing so could jeopardize ongoing investigations.
In a statement, the news agencies said: “In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and continuing throughout the ensuing two months, (the agencies have) declined to provide any meaningful information in response to the requests regarding the events of that day," the statement said.
Denying requests for public documents were made "despite the unfathomable reality that some 376 members of law enforcement responded to the tragedy, and hundreds of those were in the school or on school property (and) not going into the unlocked classroom where the gunman continued killing helpless youth,” the plaintiffs said in the statement.
The plaintiffs have not publicly responded to the lawsuit.
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