Uvalde district suspends school police department amid protests after shooting

HOUSTON — The Uvalde School District has suspended its police force, which has come under growing criticism over its response to the fatal shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers in May.

“As a result of recent developments, Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller have been placed on administrative leave, and the district has made the decision to suspend all CISD Uvalde Police Department operations for a period of time,” said said the district. in a statement Friday, noting that Mueller would retire and other officers “will fill other roles in the district.”

Department of Public Safety (DPS) soldiers will be stationed at schools and extracurricular activities in Uvalde, the statement said, noting, “We are confident that the safety of staff and students will not be compromised during this transition.” .

It was unclear how long the school police department would be suspended. A district spokeswoman did not return calls or emails.

The district did not say what prompted the decision, but the announcement came a day after officials said they had fired school police officer Crimson Elizondo. CNN reported that Elizondo was hired while still under investigation for her conduct during the massacre, while employed by the DPS. The decision to hire Elizondo had sparked outrage from the parents of the victims.

“We are deeply distressed by the information that was released last night regarding one of our recently hired employees, Crimson Elizondo,” the school district said in a letter released after the layoff. “We sincerely apologize to the families of the victims and the greater community of Uvalde for the pain this revelation has caused.”

Elizondo was the first DPS soldier to enter the hallway at Robb Elementary School after the shooter, but did not bring his rifle or body armor, according to an internal review reported by ABC News.

Due to a potential failure to follow standard procedures, she was among seven DPS staff members who had been suspended while they were under investigation by the agency’s inspector general, the agency said. reported ABC. Elizondo resigned from the DPS to work for the Uvalde School Police, meaning she was no longer subject to internal discipline or sanctions by the state agency.

The Uvalde School District did not say when Elizondo was hired, but they said at an Aug. 8 school board meeting that “four officers have been recommended for hire.” It is not known if Elizondo was one of them.

Relatives of the shooting victims gathered outside the school district’s administration building for more than a week to protest school police.

Javier Cazares, father of 9-year-old victim Jacklyn Cazares, called the school police suspension ‘one of the battles that has been won’.

“At the same time, it should have been earlier,” he said. “It’s a small battle. There is much more to do.

Cazares, who is running for the county commission, said the families are determined to hold local and state leaders accountable in the aftermath of the shooting, even though some neighbors who see them protesting are urging them to give up.

“People who say this are those who have not been affected. Yesterday a truck driver opened his window and said “Go ahead”. We cannot continue. Our babies are gone,” Cazares said. “This is a fight we can never stop. We can’t even grieve properly because we do that. It’s depressing that they have this attitude: we’re doing it for their children.

Cazares said he plans to attend the school board’s next meeting on Monday, where he expects this week’s announcements to be discussed.

“More things are coming to light, and there’s still a lot more,” he said, including improvements to the school’s windows, doors and locks. “There’s still a lot to do that they promised.”

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D), who represents the Uvalde area, credited loved ones with the victims – particularly Brett Cross, who raised his nephew, 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, as a son, and camped outside the Uvalde school offices to protest — for forcing the district to take action. Parents and other loved ones have staged marches in the small South Texas town, filed grievances and spoken at countless school board meetings, demanding accountability.

“Uvalde’s families got nothing from their own government but lies, misinformation and a complete disregard for their well-being,” Gutierrez said in a statement Friday. “Thanks to the perseverance of Brett Cross and all the Uvalde families, a step towards accountability has been taken today. UCISD has suspended its leaders. This cannot be the end; we still need a full transparency and justice from every agency and every level of government that let us down at Uvalde.

Adam Martinez, whose 8-year-old son survived the shooting, stood outside the school administration building with Cross on Friday protesting when he heard the news that the school’s police had been suspended.

“That’s basically what caused this,” he said of the protests.

But Martinez said suspending the school police was not enough corrective action. After the shooting, he filed a grievance with the Uvalde School Board against the superintendent, but no action was taken. Martinez also wants the superintendent removed.

“At the end of the day, he was the person overseeing the hire and he allowed this hire to happen,” Martinez said of Elizondo, the former DPS soldier. “He allowed a lot of these things to happen. The first question you ask when hiring a police officer to deal with these children should be if that police officer was on the scene when it happened? Please don’t put anyone in this school who was there at the time.

Martinez said it shouldn’t matter if the superintendent knew Elizondo’s record: “Anyway: if he didn’t know, shame on him.” If he knew, shame on him.

Martinez said her son Zayon was still coping with the trauma of the shooting, going to school at home where he was frightened by small sounds, like the dog scratching at the door.

“I spoke to my wife about it today and we are going to put it in consultation. There are a lot of things that trigger it,” Martinez said.

But he said the district’s announcements this week, combined with the earlier departure of Pete Arredondo, former Uvalde School Police Chief and City Council member, have encouraged him and other families.

“As we continued to stay strong and go to meetings and voice our opinions, that made a difference,” Martinez said. “At first people say nothing is going to change. In Uvalde, there is a status quo. Now I hope people see that things can change. We just have to stay strong, united and not give up.

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