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Former mayor ‘shocked’ investigation exonerates all Uvalde officers in Robb shooting

Police boundary markers surround Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 26 following the mass shooting two days earlier.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Police boundary markers surround Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 26 following the mass shooting two days earlier.

The former Uvalde mayor who requested an independent investigation into the response of his police force to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School says he’s disappointed by the results of the probe.

In an interview with The Texas Newsroom, Don McLaughlin said he disagrees with the report exonerating Mariano Pargas, the acting Uvalde police chief the day of the shooting.

“My contention from day one … there was definitely a failure of leadership in law enforcement that day,” McLaughlin said. “Mariano was acting police chief and, quite honestly, I think he failed that day.”

According to audio obtained by CNN in 2022, Pargas was told there were “eight to nine” children alive in one of the classrooms, but he failed to coordinate a response.

Pargas didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

‘Shocked’

McLaughlin was mayor of Uvalde when a gunman entered Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, and killed 19 children and two teachers. Many more were injured.

Nearly 400 law enforcement agencies from 8 local, state and federal agencies responded to the shooting, but waited 77 minutes to kill the shooter.

The investigation, conducted by a city-hired consultant, exonerates all 25 of the Uvalde Police Department officers who responded that day.

Earlier this year, a Department of Justice investigation into the response found "cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training.”

McLaughlin said he was “shocked” to learn about the most recent report’s conclusions.

“I don’t fault the officers as much as I fault the leadership because those officers were put on hold at one point and were waiting for somebody to do something,” McLaughlin said. “I honestly believe if those officers had been told to go in they would have.”

Parents expressed their anger at the report and the investigator, Jesse Prado, a former Austin Police Department detective turned consultant, when it was released during a Uvalde City Council special meeting March 7.

Veronica Mata, mother of 10-year-old victim Tess, slammed the report last week.

“All this is a pact, it’s a brother’s pact,” Mata said. “You protect your own.”

McLaughlin said that when he asked for an investigation, he never asked Prado to cover up what happened that day.

“My instructions there were to see what the actions of our officers were that day and also to review the policy that we had in place, to see what we needed to change, what we needed to do,” McLaughlin said.

He added his office was not “hands on” on the investigation.

The report placed some blame on the parents who gathered outside the school and were calling on officers to go in. “Lt. Pargas had to deal with crowd control because people were trying to get to the ambulances, and some were out of control,” it said.

McLaughlin pushed back against the notion that parents were at fault.

“The parents don’t have blame in this,” he said. “There were enough officers there.”

Uvalde City Council members are expected to discuss the report when they meet Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
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