Acting Uvalde Police Chief Suspended Following State Probe Into School Shooting Response
The acting police chief on the day of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has been placed on administrative leave amid review of law enforcement’s response to the tragedy.
Lt. Mariano Pargas’ suspension was announced Sunday by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, The Texas Tribune reported. According to the Austin-American Statesman, officials did not disclose if the leave would be paid.
The Uvalde Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The announcement followed the Sunday release of a 77-page report by a Texas House Investigative Committee reviewing the actions taken by law enforcement on May 24, when it took officers 77 minutes to confront a gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers.
One of the revelations made in the report was that the police response disregarded its own active shooting training.
“They failed to prioritise saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the document said.
Pargas’ suspension comes nearly a month after it was announced that Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, whose response that day has also been criticised, was placed on administrative leave.
Arredondo, who was one of the first to respond to the scene that day, according to The New York Times, told the Tribune in June that he did not consider himself to be the commanding officer on the scene that day.
The Tribune reported that despite Arredondo’s claim, an active shooter plan that he co-wrote explained that the chief would “become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at the scene” in the event of such an emergency.
Sunday’s report also explained that though there were 376 law enforcement officers at the school they lacked sufficient “urgency” to confront the gunman, per the report. It also said the response lacked proper leadership and basic communications.
“Instead of continuing to act as if they were addressing a barricaded subject scenario in which responders had time on their side, they should have reassessed the scenario as one involving an active shooter,” the report read. “Correcting this error should have sparked greater urgency to immediately breach the classroom by any possible means, to subdue the attacker, and to deliver immediate aid to surviving victims.”
“We agree with the Committee’s review of the incident, there was failure of command,” McLaughlin said, according to the Tribune.
“However, we have further questions as to who was responsible for taking command as each agency there had senior level commanders on site.”
According to the paper, during Pargas’ leave, he will be investigated by the city to find if he was responsible for taking command and what actions he took to establish that command. In addition, the Tribune continued, the city will also be conducting an “internal investigation over the local police department’s actions and policies,” according to the mayor.
The document said there was “an overall lackadaisical approach” from law enforcement at the scene.
The report was compiled by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R) — the chair of the investigative committee who represents District 83 in Lubbock — Rep. Joe Moody (D) — the Vice-Chair of the committee who represents District 78 in El Paso — and Public Member Hon. Eva Guzman.