A criminal investigation looking into the hesitant police response to the Uvalde school massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers will be finished by the end of the year, Texas’ state police chief said Thursday.
Col. Steve McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a public meeting in Austin that the Texas Rangers’ findings would be turned over to prosecutors “within two months.” But he offered no indication whether any of the nearly 400 officers who waited more than 70 minutes before confronting a gunman at Robb Elementary School on May 24 would face charges.
“The criminal investigation is looking at police officers, plain and simple,” McCraw said.
He also defended the Texas state police troopers in the face of widening scrutiny. There were 91 state troopers at the scene. Several Uvalde families demanded his resignation during the meeting.
McCraw’s appearance before the state Public Safety Commission provided the first update of the Uvalde investigation in weeks, although little new information was revealed. Families of many of the children killed in the attack have spent months accusing the Department of Public Safety of slow-walking the investigation, withholding information and trying to minimize its responsibility.
The commission oversees state police and is a board of four members, all appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a longtime supporter of McCraw. The board did not ask McCraw any questions about Uvalde.
The meeting came a week after the department fired one of seven troopers subject to an internal investigation into their actions during one of the deadliest classroom shootings in U.S. history.
Jesse Rizzo, whose 9-year-old niece Jacklyn Cazares was among the victims, said misleading and false comments from authorities about the police response has compounded the small town’s grief and eroded trust in law enforcement.
“The aftermath that came after that was absolutely unacceptable, hurtful, painful,” Rizzo said. “Every single time seemed like lie after lie, disinformation.”
McCraw on Thursday apologized for the department originally saying that the gunman had been able to gain access to the school because a teacher had propped open an exterior door with a rock. The teacher had gone back and shut the door, but it did not lock.
But McCraw insisted his department “did not fail the community,” drawing condemnation from the assembled Uvalde families.
“If you’re a man of your word then you would retire,” Brett Cross, the uncle of 10-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia, told McCraw. “But unfortunately it doesn’t seem like you’re going to do that because you keep talking in circles.”
Another of the state troopers under internal investigation was Crimson Elizondo, who resigned and later was hired by Uvalde schools to work as a campus police officer. She was fired less than 24 hours after outraged parents in Uvalde found out about her hiring.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.