Sun. Jul 21st, 2024




CNN
 — 

A grand jury has indicted two former Uvalde school police officers in the botched law enforcement response to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead, two Texas state government sources with knowledge of the indictment told CNN Thursday.

Former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo and former school police officer Adrian Gonzales were named in the indictments, which represent the first criminal charges filed in the school massacre.

Arredondo surrendered himself to the custody of the Texas Rangers in Uvalde on Thursday, an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN. The former chief was booked on 10 counts of child endangerment and known criminal negligence, according to an official at the Uvalde County Jail.

Arredondo was then released on bond, according to the jail.

The indictments against the two officers were not immediately available from the Uvalde County District Court clerk’s office.

Arredondo and Gonzales face felony charges of abandoning and endangering a child, Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell told the Uvalde Leader-News.

Family members of the victims have been meeting with the DA’s office to discuss the results of the months-long grand jury investigation, according to Brett Cross, the guardian of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, one of the fourth graders killed in the shooting rampage.

Earlier this year, the US Justice Department released a damning report that concluded law enforcement officers had many opportunities to reassess their flawed response to the May 24, 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Bursts of gunfire, reports a teacher had been shot and then a desperate call from a student trapped with the gunman could – and should – all have prompted a drive to stop the bloodshed far sooner, said the report.

Instead, it took 77 minutes from when the 18-year-old shooter walked into Robb Elementary School until he was stopped. The carnage remains among the deadliest episodes in America’s ongoing scourge of campus shootings.

Critical failures in leadership among specific law enforcement officers who rushed to Robb Elementary are cited by the Justice Department, whose 575-page report was released nearly 20 months after the massacre.

Arredondo was fired in August 2022 for his role in the failed response. In May, his replacement, Joshua Gutierrez, submitted his resignation and his last day on the job was Wednesday, according to a school official’s statement.

Officers, school employees and shooting victims testified before grand jury

Multiple law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting, including members of the Texas Department of Public Safety, were ordered to testify before the grand jury, CNN previously reported.

School employees and victims of the shooting began their testimony before the grand jury in March – shortly after the Uvalde City Council released an independent report clearing all local officers of wrongdoing.

The independent investigator hired by the city reported his findings at a packed city council meeting, saying all the officers who responded to the school from the Uvalde Police Department acted in good faith and should be exonerated.

The findings sparked the fury of many victims’ parents and community members who have said for nearly two years that some should not be absolved. Less than a week after the release of the report, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez abruptly announced he would resign, effective April 6, saying it was time for “a new chapter” in his career.

The Justice Department report dismissed the early official narrative of brave first responders saving lives that day and said “many victims shared that it added to their pain during a challenging time.”

The report found ample problems also emerged after the gunman was killed – from getting students away from the school and reunited with families to how bereaved parents were told their children were dead, the release of information about what happened, and the provision of therapy services.

The report describes the quick arrival of law enforcement officers who ran toward the sound of gunfire, then almost immediately stopped once they got near the classrooms where the gunman was killing fourth graders and educators.

That decision ran counter to widely established active shooter response protocol, which instructs law enforcement to move toward and eliminate any threat.

Instead, the intensity level dropped as responders began to treat the situation as a “barricaded suspect” operation that did not need immediate action, even as more officers arrived and the signals of ongoing danger multiplied.

That was the “single most critical tactical failure,” the team from the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services found.

In May, 19 families of the students and teachers killed or injured in the mass shooting said they settled a lawsuit with the city for $2 million and announced they are suing 92 officers with Texas Department of Public Safety, the school district and individual employees.

The city confirmed the settlement in a statement.

“It has been an unbearable two years,” Javier Cazares, the father of 9-year-old victim Jacklyn Cazares, said at a May news conference. “We all know who took our children’s lives, but there was an obvious systemic failure out there on May 24. The whole world saw that.”




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