Uvalde mayor says he fears cover-up of school massacre investigation

“I’m not 100% confident in the DPS because I think it’s a cover-up,” he said of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the lead agency tasked with identifying this which led to well-armed officers waiting outside a classroom for over an hour before engaging the shooter.

“McGraw may be covering up his agencies,” McLaughlin continued in his most vocal attack yet on DPS director Col. Steven McCraw.

But McLaughlin told CNN on Tuesday that he didn’t feel the whole story of the May 24 massacre was coming out, in part because the Texas DPS was not transparent.

“Every agency in that hallway will have to share the blame,” he said. Staff from multiple law enforcement agencies gathered inside and outside the school before the shooter was arrested and killed.

McLaughlin said in an interview, “At this point, I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe.”

And if he said he trusted the individuals of the DPS in the service of his community, he no longer believed in senior management.

CNN has contacted the DPS for comment and has been referred to District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee of the 38th Judicial District for further details. It was she who ordered an investigation by the Texas Rangers Division of the DPS, which is ongoing.

DPS Press Secretary Ericka Beltran said, “The Texas Department of Public Safety is committed to working with multiple law enforcement agencies to get the answers we are all looking for.”

McLaughlin said he hadn’t had a briefing ‘from anyone’ since the day after the shooting, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott and others visited Uvalde to find out what happened .

Yet, he said, the key facts of the timeline did not line up — a timeline that has already been significantly altered from the hours after the attack, when law enforcement was greeted by Abbott and others.

“I lost confidence because the narrative changed DPS so many times and when we asked questions, we didn’t get answers.”

McLaughlin asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the law enforcement response and that work has now begun.

He repeatedly said his aim was simply to get the truth for the families of the two teachers and the 19 children, aged 9 to 11, who were shot that day.

And he called on Abbott to return to Uvalde to speak to grieving parents.

“These families want to talk to the governor and he needs to come see them,” he said, adding that he was writing Abbott to make the request and reaffirm his concerns about the investigation.

Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, did not respond to a specific question about when the Texas governor would return to Uvalde, but said he would “continue to visit the Uvalde community and local leaders “.

She said the families of the victims and the public ‘deserve the full truth about what happened on that tragic day’ and continued, ‘Governor Abbott and his office will continue to work with state and local leaders like Mayor McLaughlin to support the Uvalde community and provide everyone with available resources as they heal.

Eze also highlighted what Abbott had already done, including issuing a disaster declaration and committing money and other resources to make schools safer and support mental health.

McLaughlin was with Abbott, US Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and other officials when DPS gave his first insight into what happened before Abbott led a press conference.

He said Arredondo, the school police chief later accused of inaction, was also there, standing against a wall. He didn’t speak and no one asked him questions, the mayor said.
McLaughlin first came to national attention at the initial news conference after the shooting when he shouted profanities at Beto O’Rourke, as the former presidential and Senate candidate who is currently running for governor was trying to confront Abbott.

He said he had no regrets about it as there were grieving families in the audience.

“It wasn’t the place to come up and start screaming. It drove me crazy because it wasn’t the place or the time,” he said.

McLaughlin said he opposed politics on either side in a situation where families were still waiting for answers.

He decried how everything divides along political party lines and wished some debates could take place without questioning whether it was a Republican or a Democratic way. He said he supports raising the age at which someone can buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21 as well as improved background checks for younger buyers. He said he bought an assault rifle when he thought they would be banned, but never used it.

McLaughlin himself was asked about his degree of openness.

He said he decided Arredondo should be sworn in behind closed doors to a city council job he won before the shooting because he didn’t want a fancy ceremony so soon after the death. of so many children. Arredondo has since resigned from that role and has been separately placed on administrative leave from his job.
Family photos show six of those killed at Robb Elementary.  Top, left to right: Xavier Lopez, Eva Mireles and Jose Flores Jr. Bottom, left to right: Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza and Lexi Rubio.

For now, McLaughlin is considering how students will respond in the new school year that begins next month.

Uvalde is close to the Mexican border, and he said there were frequent school closures during immigration and other law enforcement operations.

“How’s it going to feel on August 15 when we start school and have these activities going across town?” He asked.

“How are these families going to feel? How are these children going to feel? How are these parents going to feel?”

McLaughlin, whose term as mayor ends in 2024, said the families of those who did not return from Robb Elementary are his focus right now.

“I want these families to have closure. Nothing is ever going to cure the pain they have, it’s never going to cure this pain but they need to know what happened and they need to know the truth. “

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