Acting Police Chief on Day of Uvalde Mass Shooting Placed on Administrative Leave

An investigative report that is being described as a preliminary report was released Sunday in Uvalde, Texas. The subject was the response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Families and loved ones of the nineteen children and two teachers have waited for the report to be released in hopes of gleaning some answers about what happened that horrible day.

The facts uncovered in the report are as bad as anticipated. One fact that jumps out right away is that a total of 376 law enforcement officers from federal, state, and local agencies responded to the shooting at the school. The numbers and agencies involved include 25 Uvalde police officers and 16 sheriff’s deputies. There were 149 Border Patrol agents, 91 state police officers, five officers from the Uvalde School District police force, and the rest were from neighboring county law enforcement, including U.S. Marshals, and DEA officers.

How can it be that 376 law enforcement officers were on the scene and no one took charge? That is what happened. Those arriving on the scene thought that Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo was in command. Others were simply in the dark as to who should be in charge. Arredondo said he didn’t think he was in charge as the incident commander. He assumed an officer outside would be the one in charge. This however flies in the face of the school district’s active shooter response plan which he co-authored. The response plan states “the chief will become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at the scene.” Arredondo was placed on administrative leave last month.

On Sunday, Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock; Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso; and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman representing the Texas House committee investigating the mass shooting held a press conference in Uvalde. They were careful to say it is a preliminary report and that other investigations are continuing. They hope the report will be used by the state legislature to craft policies to prevent future mass shootings. It provides an accurate account of the day’s events, unlike previous accountings that have been provided by everyone from the governor to local officials in Uvalde.

One action that has already been taken is that Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin placed the city’s acting police chief on the day of the shooting on administrative leave.

McLaughlin said Lt. Mariano Pargas had been placed on administrative leave to determine whether he was responsible for taking command after a gunman entered the school and killed 21 people – including 19 children – on May 24.

The announcement came after the release of a 77-page report that criticized both state and federal law enforcement, and not just local authorities in the South Texas town for the inaction by heavily armed officers as the gunman was massacring students.

“Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”

That is what the committee is calling it – systemic failure and poor decision making. To me it looks like cowardice and chaos. Why didn’t all of those hundreds of law enforcement personnel just follow the plan that was put in place by the school district? The officers in that hallway chose to save their own lives rather than take the risk and do their jobs. They chose themselves over the dying children and two teachers. Instead of rushing in and taking out the shooter, they chose to hang back and wait.

I’m sure more will be written about the report here, as there is plenty to say about it. I wanted to start it off, though, with the fact that 376 law enforcement officers from various agencies, both federal and state, were present at the scene of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School and none of them stepped forward and took control of the scene. None of them. That is hard to wrap my head around. Only Arredondo and Lt. Pargas have been held accountable so far. They have been suspended, though, not fired and sent packing. If people won’t do the job when it is needed the most, they should be looking for new jobs.