AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The head of Texas’ top law enforcement agency, Col. Steven McCraw, said the Department of Public Safety “did not fail” the Uvalde community in its response to the May 24 mass school shooting.
McCraw’s comments come weeks after he said he would step down if there’s “any culpability” among his troopers.
“If DPS as an institution — as an institution — failed the families, failed the school or failed the community of Uvalde, then absolutely I need to go,” McCraw said. “But I can tell you this right now: DPS as an institution, right now, did not fail the community — plain and simple.”
McCraw was there to give an update on the Uvalde investigation at the Public Safety Commission meeting in Austin Thursday. However, the only update the department director provided is that the Texas Rangers’ investigation into law enforcement’s response to the shooting should be completed by the end of the year.
His remarks come amid growing calls for his resignation. Family members of some of the 21 victims killed at Robb Elementary traveled to Austin to testify, looking him directly in the eye while calling for him to step down.
“Your commission has a duty for the citizens of the state of Texas. You have a duty to make this right. And we need something done now.” said Manuel Rizos, uncle and godfather of one of the victims – Jackie Cazares.
Uvalde-related discussion lasted a little over an hour before the commission took a break. Emotions ran high in the room, as family members shared their inability to move forward as they still wait for accountability.
“We are told to find closure, but closure is not an option until we have answers and hold those who are responsible accountable,” Rizos said.
At the meeting, Democratic State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, detailed the timeline of misinformation, saying it has only made things worse for these grieving families.
“DPS failed on my May 24, it failed to take control of a dangerous situation…it failed in the days following the massacre by giving false information that was easily, provably false,” he said. “And it is failing today by continuing to not disclose all of the information that is important to us today.”
In response to McCraw’s remarks, some Texas politicians called for his resignation Thursday.
“DPS Director McCraw should RESIGN immediately,” Republican Congressman Tony Gonzalez, who represents Uvalde, said on Twitter.
Texas Democratic Party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa said “The Texas Democratic Party stands with the families of the Uvalde massacre in calling on DPS Director McCraw to resign immediately.”
The meeting comes after at least seven Texas DPS officers were put under investigation for their response to the May 24 shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. DPS has not released any names or information about them.
Last week, Sgt. Juan Maldonado was the first DPS official to be terminated over his response to the mass shooting. He was one of the first to respond to the school.
Earlier this month, another former DPS official who is under investigation for her response, Crimson Elizondo, was found to be hired onto the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department, according to records obtained by KXAN. The district then terminated Elizondo after media reports about her hiring.
Uvalde CISD also suspended its entire school police force on Oct. 7. Prior to that, the district had only terminated Pete Arredondo — the school’s police chief.
“Dribbling out, again, sanctions against low-level cops, officers, troopers — when in fact we need to look at the people that were supervising those people and the people that were making decisions,” Gutierrez said, in criticism of the suspensions and terminations of officers thus far.
LivesRobbed, an organization formed by some of the families affected by the tragedy, issued a statement after the meeting, criticizing DPS for not providing an update on the investigation, as was expected according to the meeting agenda.
“Instead, in a bait and switch, [DPS] hosted a glorified press conference and once again refused to accept responsibility for their failures,” the statement said. “To be clear, the Department’s failures on that day are not up for debate. Our children are dead.”