Uvalde mayor accuses Texas law enforcement director of lying, leaking and misleading to avoid blame in shooting investigation
By Travis Caldwell, Amy Simonson and Eric Levenson, CNN
(CNN) -- Texas Department of Public Safety broke weeks of silence Tuesday and released its latest timeline of the Uvalde school shooting, blaming the flawed police response on the school district's police chief.
But just hours later, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin slammed the DPS's lack of transparency and accused its director, Col. Steven McCraw, of intentionally minimizing his agency's mistakes.
"Col. McCraw has continued to -- whether you want to call it -- lie, leak, mislead or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and Rangers from the response. Every briefing he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers that were on-scene that day," McLaughlin told residents at a city council meeting Tuesday.
"Col. McCraw has an agenda and it is not to present a full report on what happened and give factual answers on what happened to this community."
The mayor's criticisms add further turmoil to a tragedy that has become a case study in bad policing and worse communication. Nearly a month has passed since an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. He remained inside the classrooms from 11:33 a.m. until 12:50 p.m. -- when police finally breached the door and killed him, according to a DPS timeline.
Yet authorities have repeatedly changed their account of key facts about what happened inside the rooms and what police did in response during those 77 minutes.
Earlier Tuesday, McCraw testified before a Texas Senate committee that the response from law enforcement was an "abject failure" and violated commonly taught protocol to stop the shooter as quickly as possible.
He accused Uvalde school district police chief Pedro "Pete" Arredondo, who McCraw and others have identified as the on-scene commander, of ordering police to wait in a nearby hallway for unnecessary equipment and keys to a door that was not even locked.
"Three minutes after the subject entered the West building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject," he said. "The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children."
CNN has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the district attorney's office, the chair of the Texas House investigating committee and the San Antonio office of the FBI for further comment.
Mayor says he's frustrated by lack of transparency
Arredondo, who was also elected to the city council this year, has remained out of the public eye since the shooting. He testified behind closed doors to a Texas House committee Tuesday, but he has not spoken substantively about his decision-making on the day of the shooting.
Despite his election to the city council, he has not appeared at a meeting yet. At the meeting on Tuesday night, council members unanimously denied him a leave of absence from future meetings.
Also at the meeting, McLaughlin noted that officers from at least eight law enforcement agencies were in the hallway outside the classrooms on the day of the shooting. McLaughlin said he has no desire to pursue elected office again and is "not covering up for anybody," saying all responding agencies should be held accountable.
He said the leaking of certain bits of information over the past few weeks "continues to create chaos in our community and keeps the whole truth from coming out."
He particularly took aim at what he said was a false report that local police weren't cooperating with investigators, and he expressed his frustration with being left in the dark.
"I'm just as frustrated -- maybe not as frustrated as the families that have lost their loved ones -- but it pisses me off that I can't give you answers or can't get you answers," McLaughlin said.
"What matters to Uvalde is that these brokenhearted families and this grieving community get a full investigation and an accurate report of what happened that day. The petty infighting, the clickbait headlines and the politically motivated scapegoating is not helping anyone. It is dividing a community and further frustrating grieving families," he added.
McLaughlin said he was meant to receive a daily briefing from authorities since its onset but none has been provided.
"The gloves are off. As we know it, we will share it. We are not going to hold back anymore," he said.
McLaughlin has criticized the lack of transparency from investigators before, saying at a city council meeting on June 7, "We had some missteps with the DPS releasing some facts or different things, but that wasn't the Rangers who were leading the investigation. I'm not blaming anybody," he said.
"We were told one thing one day, and the next day the narrative changed. You were told for a week that a teacher propped the door open with a rock, and at the end of the week that story was gone too. That's the missteps I'm talking about," he added.
DPS director plans to release bodycam video
Tuesday's developments came after reporting from CNN, the Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman previewed some of the DPS timeline and revealed further flaws in the police response.
Details from the first moments of the massacre include that 11 officers were inside the building within three minutes of the gunman opening fire. Rifles and ballistic shields were available shortly after, reports revealed.
But 77 minutes passed from the time the gunman started shooting to when a tactical response team entered the classroom and killed him, according to a timeline of events from DPS. Authorities said they believed the classroom doors were locked and worked to locate a key, but security footage of officers testing the doors has yet to be found, according to the reports.
Arredondo previously told The Texas Tribune he didn't consider himself the incident commander and left his police radio and campus radio outside the school because he thought carrying them would slow him down.
Citing a DPS assessment, McCraw told the state Senate committee Tuesday that Uvalde school police officers' radios would not have worked inside the school building due to a weaker signal. Border Patrol agents had the only portable radios that could have worked, he said, but when Border Patrol tried to patch their signals together with local law enforcements' devices, their radios didn't work either.
McCraw said that DPS planned to release bodycam footage at some point.
"Whenever the district attorney approves it, we are going to release all the body camera coverage, we're going to release all the school video and the funeral video," he said.
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