Uvalde school district suspends school police force, 2 school officials placed on administrative leave

Uvalde school district suspends school police force, 2 school officials placed on administrative leave



CNN

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said Friday it had suspended its school police force, less than five months after the attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

“The District has made the decision to suspend all activities of the Uvalde CISD Police Department for a period of time. Officers currently employed will fill other roles in the district,” the district said in a statement.

Additionally, Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller have been placed on administrative leave, with Mueller electing to retire, according to the statement.

“The District has requested the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide additional troopers for campus and extra-curricular activities,” the district said. “We are confident that staff and student safety will not be compromised during this transition.”

The district cited unspecified “recent developments” that “uncovered additional concerns with department operations.”

One parent who had protested for days in front of the school district building, demanding the district take action, told CNN on Friday night he was ecstatic about the decision.

The moves come in the wake of a CNN report Wednesday which identified newly hired Uvalde school officer Crimson Elizondo as one of the state troopers under investigation for her actions during the response to the Robb Elementary School massacre in May.

The school district issued a statement on Thursday, following CNN’s report, announcing Elizondo’s termination.

In the wake of the CNN report, the school district superintendent told staff of his intention to retire.

Superintendent Hal Harrell told district staff Monday’s school board meeting will include a closed session to “discuss superintendent retirement options and transition,” according to an email obtained by CNN.

Brett Cross, who was the legal guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday night the decision to suspend the campus officers was “our first win, you know, and I am ecstatic about it.”

Cross said he wasn’t alone in the protest in front of the school district headquarters as people often came by to give their support.

They just want transparency and accountability from officials, he said.

“I’m not asking for much. We just want to see action,” Cross said, adding he hopes for a report on the details of what occurred that day. “I hope that it is unearthed and I hope that it is published because we deserve it. Our children deserve it.”

After the announcement Cross tweeted the end of his protest: “We did it! And we are going home!”

Elizondo was among the first of 91 DPS officers to arrive at the school that day. She was one of 376 law enforcement personnel who responded as the shooter was left for 77 minutes, with dead, dying and traumatized victims, before he was stopped. The response to the attack has been denounced as an “abject failure” and the blame has spread widely.

The school police chief was fired and now seven DPS officers are being investigated. CNN reported exclusively that Elizondo is one of the officers under investigation. A source close to the investigation also confirmed that to CNN.

So far, the only person known to have lost their job over the response to the shooting has been school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired by the school board in August. Arredondo became the figurehead of the failed response, though he has said he did not consider himself the incident commander and has called to be reinstated.

Sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that Elizondo is one of seven officers whose conduct is being investigated by DPS, but neither their names nor their conduct during the response been made public.

Elizondo was not properly equipped and told investigators she was not comfortable entering the school without her gear, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

She no longer works for DPS. During the summer, Elizondo was hired as an officer for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, where her role involved protecting some of the very same children who survived the Robb Elementary shooting.

Elizondo declined to speak with CNN in person, on the phone or by direct message.

Footage from police body cameras and those of other officers seen by CNN show Elizondo arriving at the outskirts of the school as one of the first officers to respond. She gets out of her official vehicle but does not retrieve any tactical body armor or her long rifle, as officers are trained to do. Elizondo walked inside the building briefly but mostly stood outside.

The school district has said it wanted to recruit 10 more officers after the attack. It did not specifically announce the hiring of Elizondo over the summer, though the names and photos of her and four other police officers, one lieutenant and one security guard are on its website, under the banner “KEEP UCID SAFE.”

Harrell told a special town hall meeting in August that at least 33 DPS officers would also be deployed around the district’s eight schools.

After concerns by residents that officers who failed to stop the killing would be tasked with school security, Cross told CNN he had been assured the deployed DPS officers would not have been responders to the shooting.

“Our children have been taken from us. We will not stop fighting until we have answers and we ensure the safety of the children in our community is the top priority,” said a statement from representatives for families of district students.

Texas DPS last month launched an internal review into its employees who responded to the school shooting.

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