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Uvalde lawmaker will propose $300 million compensation fund for Robb Elementary victims

 State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, announced legislation to create a compensation fund for victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
The Texas Newsroom
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, announced legislation to create a compensation fund for victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez on Wednesday said he will file legislation during the next Texas legislative session to create a compensation fund for families of the victims killed in May’s Uvalde elementary school shooting.

Under the proposal from Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, $7.7 million would go to “the victim’s immediate surviving family or members of the household.” Additionally, “physically injured” victims would be eligible for up to $2.1 million, according to language contained in a draft of the proposed legislation.

The entire fund balance will be about $300 million. (The current draft of the bill says $250 million, but Gutierrez said Wednesday that amount will be corrected.)

Gutierrez has been one of the more outspoken critics of the law enforcement’s response to the shooting, where an 18-year-old gunman walked into Robb Elementary School and fatally shot 19 students and two schoolteachers, wounding 17 more. Subsequent investigations showed that nearly 400 law enforcement officers arrived at the scene of the shooting, including dozens from the Texas Department of Public Safety, but the gunman was not approached by police for more than 70 minutes after he entered the school.

“This is absolutely the worst law enforcement response to a massacre in our nation’s history,” Gutierrez told reporters in Uvalde on Wednesday, not pulling back from his sustained criticism of law enforcement.

“The story on May 24 isn’t just the story of a madman committing an unspeakable horror. It is a story of neglect; it is a story of malfeasance. It is a story of gross negligence and gross misconduct by law enforcement at every level. The actions of [Texas] DPS have clearly shown that there has been institutional failure. We’ve clearly all seen by now a conscious disregard for human life.”

In the draft of the bill — which he said will be filed Nov. 11, the first day lawmakers can pre-file legislation — Gutierrez said the crime was exacerbated by law enforcement’s “dereliction of duty” that justified the proposed payouts.

“Local and state police officers arrived at the location in the early stages of the attack and waited more than an hour to confront the attacker and to render aid to the victims. As a consequence of their inaction, victims bled out and perished,” the draft bill states. “The Legislature finds that there is an emergent need to compensate the victims and their families of the Uvalde attack.”

The bill also pressures lawmakers to officially condemn the lack of action from law enforcement officers.

“The legislature further finds that every governmental unit and their employees acted with willful or gross negligence, bad faith, conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the lives of the victims of the attack on Robb Elementary,” the draft states.

Gutierrez said the monetary amounts were also symbolic.

“The $7.7 [million] is clear, those kids waited for 77 minutes while cops did nothing,” he said. “The 2.1 million is for the 21 people that died and that goes to injured children. Because forever they’ll have to live with the survivor’s guilt among many other traumas that they’ll have to deal with in their lives.”

Gutierrez added that the objective of his proposal is punitive, since there is no monetary amount in existence that can replace a lost loved one. But he said his hope is to force lawmakers to acknowledge the failures of law enforcement.

“This isn’t about money for families. And there is not an amount of money that will ever bring their children back,” he said. “But we have to set up this $300 million fund because it absolutely has to be punitive in nature. We have to know for ourselves that the state failed and the state must admit that it failed.”

When asked where the funds will come from, Gutierrez pointed out that Texas currently sits on a $27 billion surplus.

“We have $27 billion in our surpluses that Republicans would rather want to [use to] buy down tax relief. We can do all that,” he said.

He also said he’s been asked why there haven’t been similar proposals following other mass shootings in Texas. Gutierrez said Uvalde was different.

“In none of those other massacres did the police take 77 minutes to act,” he said.

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Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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