The mayor of Uvalde, Texas, said Tuesday he was frustrated by law enforcement’s lack of transparency in the investigation into the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School two weeks ago.
“We’ve asked for a briefing or something but we’re not getting it. I’ve been they’re law enforcement and we’re not going to be told entitled to it at this time,” Mayor Don McLaughlin said at a city council meeting. “I’ve asked everybody involved for a briefing at one point or another. It’s frustrating, but again I’ve been told I’m not law enforcement, but it makes me feel real frustrated.”
He said he has asked other officials with insights on the investigation to hold a press conference, to no avail.
“We want facts and answers just like everybody else,” he added.
The comments come two weeks after a gunman used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 19 children and two adults inside the adjacent classrooms 111 and 112 at Robb Elementary. The gunman was in the classrooms for more than an hour even as law enforcement stood in the hallway outside and as children inside called 911 and urgently pleaded for help, officials said.
The 18-year-old gunman was ultimately shot and killed by a Border Patrol tactical response team, according to a timeline provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The lengthy delay appeared to violate commonly accepted protocol in active shooter situations, in which police are instructed to stop the gunman as soon as possible.
Authorities have offered contradictory explanations of how the gunman was able to enter the school, what police did in response and why he was able to remain inside for so long. There has not been an official press conference to answer these key questions in over a week.
Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee on Tuesday issued a statement saying she doesn’t expect to receive reports on the shooting for a while.
“I do not expect to receive the Texas Rangers and the FBI reports for awhile [sic]† This is a complex investigation and I am expecting a complete and thorough investigation from those law enforcement agencies which will take time to complete,” Busbee said.
“There will be no statements or interviews from my office at this time. Especially, given that we are still burying our loved ones,” she added.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was primarily held for the council to vote to extend its local state of disaster declaration for 30 days. The declaration activates the Uvalde County Emergency Management plan and allows Uvalde to ask for emergency services as they are needed, McLaughlin said.
“It enables us to still have these state services here, to get counselors here for these families. Whatever they need, whatever assets these families need, or whatever assets are needed in the community, that we will have that ability to ask the state for it, and it will be here,” the mayor said.
After the city council approved the declaration, McLaughlin answered a number of questions and expressed his frustration with remaining in the dark. He said he trusted the Texas Rangers to conduct a thorough investigation, but noted that the Texas DPS had earlier made misstatements.
“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. “We want the truthful answers. We want to be transparent and we will when it comes out. We have nothing to hide.”
The law enforcement response to the shooting was led by school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who has not substantively commented in public about the shooting. Arredondo was elected to the city council earlier this year and sworn in last week in a private ceremony, but he was not present on Tuesday.
McLaughlin said he continues to have confidence in the city’s police department. He also clarified that the City of Uvalde police chief Daniel Rodriguez was on vacation at the time of the shooting.
“He wasn’t here but he canceled his vacation immediately. It took him a day and a half to get back on the plane, two planes, but he came back immediately,” he said.