The families of 19 children and two teachers are mourning after last week’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Not only are they mourning, they’re angry — and much of that anger is directed at police in Uvalde, who waited in the hallways of Robb Elementary School for over 40 minutes without engaging the attacker.
Now is the worst time for Uvalde’s police chief to offer a full-throated defense of his men, one that notes the “entire department is thankful that the officers did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.” So, of course, that’s exactly what he did.
In a news release Thursday, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez responded to news of an investigation of his department by the Texas Rangers by claiming his officers “responded within minutes alongside Uvalde CISD Officers” and noting they “sustained gun-shot wounds from the suspect.”
(As the facts are coming out, it’s clear that local law enforcement in Uvalde didn’t do its job, which was to engage the shooter. Here at The Western Journal, we’ll continue to bring readers the latest developments regarding what happened at Robb Elementary School — and whether police inaction cost lives. If you support our coverage, please consider subscribing.)
Rodriguez began his Thursday media release by offering condolences to the community.
“My department and I will never be able to express in words the deepest sympathy and condolences to the individual families and the entire community of Uvalde. We extend our most sincere gratitude for the enormous outpour of support from all Law Enforcement Agencies, our community members and the nation,” the release stated.
“I want to thank all the personnel of my department for their dedicated and tireless efforts to continue to provide service to our community during this difficult time. Our personnel have displayed the utmost commitment to our community during this difficult time as we are all suffering as members of the community, that is the family of Uvalde.”
If not particularly well-written, those first few paragraphs paragraph weren’t particularly controversial, either. Rodriguez was not able to keep that tone up for the entire media release, however.
“It is important for our community to know that our Officers responded within minutes alongside Uvalde CISD Officers. Responding UPD Officers sustained gun-shot wounds from the suspect,” he wrote.
Should this police chief resign?
“Our entire department is thankful that the officers did not sustain any life threatening injuries. This is an ongoing investigation that is led by the Texas Rangers. I understand questions are surfacing regarding the details of what occurred. I know answers will not come fast enough during this trying time, but rest assured that with the completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can.”
“Our entire department is thankful that the officers did not sustain any life-threatening injuries…” pic.twitter.com/9MmV14MNCf
— Travis Akers (@travisakers) May 28, 2022
“I know words will never ease the pain that we are all suffering, but I hope you will join me in taking some solace in knowing that the pain comes from the fact that we all have such deep love for all the victims who have been taken from us, those who are recovering, and those who only time and love will continue to heal,” he concluded. “As the close-knit community that we are, I know we will come together and help each other heal as the family that is #UvaldeStrong.”
This was, as KHOU-TV in Houston noted, after the Texas Rangers announced their investigation into the police department. The Department of Justice announced Sunday it would also be looking into the response upon the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin.
There’s a good reason Rodriguez should feel unease about both of these reviews. Within hours of the shooting, footage emerged of parents begging and pleading with police officers to enter the building. As media outlets began reporting on the timeline of events, police inaction began to look worse.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the first 911 call about a shooter came at 11:30 a.m., shortly after attacker Salvador Ramos crashed his pickup into a ditch outside Robb Elementary School and shot at two funeral home workers who came over to help.
By 11:35 — two minutes after Ramos had barricaded himself in classrooms 111 and 112, Forbes reported — there were seven police officers inside the building. Two took graze wounds.
Police decided to wait outside the classroom as opposed to entering, however, hoping backup and tactical equipment would make the task easier.
However, that’s not what officers are trained to do. According to The New York Times, Texas protocols for law enforcement officers engaging shooters state that an “officer’s first priority is to move in and confront the attacker. This may include bypassing the injured and not responding to cries for help from children.”
“Officers are taught to enter quickly in small formations — or even enter with only one or two officers — to disable any gunman,” the Times reported. What’s more, the report noted that Uvalde officers received training on these materials just two months ago.
By 12:03 p.m., there were as many as 19 officers outside the rooms. Meanwhile, police received numerous calls to 911, including one at 12:16 estimating that there were eight or nine students still alive inside the classrooms. During one call, shots can be heard in background.
It took until 12:50 for law enforcement to breach the classroom. Reports say the decision to enter was made not by Uvalde police, however, but by Border Patrol tactical unit agents who were fed up with the inaction of local officers.
New: Border Patrol tactical agents who breached the classroom and killed the shooter acted on their own initiative after mounting frustration, sources tell @JuliaEAinsley
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) May 27, 2022
At this juncture, if Rodriguez wanted to issue a media release urging the community to “come together and help each other heal as the family that is #UvaldeStrong,” the course of action he should have taken would have been to simply note there was an ongoing investigation and that he’s aware of the “questions” surrounding his department’s conduct.
Instead, even as it became clear there was little valor to defend among the responding officers, defend them Rodriguez did.
One naturally understands no police chief wants to confront the possibility his officers’ inaction was partially responsible for deaths in a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
By Thursday, however, it ought to have been at least as clear to Rodriguez — if not a whole lot more clear — that he needed to confront not just the possibility, but the likelihood, that his department’s failures helped cost young lives.
Yes, I’m sure his “entire department is thankful that the officers did not sustain any life threatening injuries.” The community of Uvalde — particularly the parents of those 19 children and the loved ones those two teachers left behind — may have their gratitude in this matter severely tempered, however.