Acting Uvalde police chief during school shooting steps down

Nov 17, 2022, 2:02 PM | Updated: 11:38 pm
This image from video released by the City of Uvalde, Texas shows city police Lt. Mariano Pargas re...

This image from video released by the City of Uvalde, Texas shows city police Lt. Mariano Pargas responding to a shooting at Robb Elementary School, on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Pargas was the acting chief for the city on the day of the shooting and was placed on administrative leave in July. (City of Uvalde via AP)

(City of Uvalde via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — The Uvalde officer who was leading the city’s police department during the hesitant law enforcement response to an elementary school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers has stepped down, a city spokeswoman said.

Lt. Mariano Pargas retired on Thursday afternoon after 18 years working for the city, according to spokeswoman Gina Eisenberg. She said his retirement was immediate but the city is still processing the paperwork.

Pargas is the second police leader to leave law enforcement in the fallout since the massacre in May, when hundreds of officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman inside a classroom at Robb Elementary School. His retirement comes ahead of a Saturday meeting at which the city council was set to consider firing him.

Pargas could not be immediately reached for comment. He previously told CNN that his lawyer instructed him not to speak publicly but, “there’s a lot of stuff that I can explain, that I would love to defend myself.”

The city placed Pargas, who was running the department during the shooting because the chief, Daniel Rodriguez, was out of town, on administrative leave in July following a damning report from lawmakers on the police response. His departure comes days after new audio highlighted that Pargas was told there were children alive in a classroom with the gunman half an hour before officers breached the room.

In the months after the shooting, state officials have focused blame on the school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, saying he made “terrible decisions” as the on-scene commander not to confront the gunman sooner. Arredondo was fired in August but has said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the police response that eventually swelled to nearly 400 officers.

Audio recordings published by CNN show that as officers were massing around the school a dispatcher told Pargas there were “eight to nine” kids still alive inside the classroom where the shooter was holed up. Pargas can be heard acknowledging the information but more than 30 minutes would pass before a tactical team entered and killed the gunman.

Authorities have said the gunman did most of his shooting within minutes of entering the classroom but it’s unclear whether there’s an official tally of how many children in the room survived. Corina Camacho, whose son was shot and was one of the survivors, told The Associated Press that 11 children were not killed and their families try to stay in touch. Kids have publicly recounted playing dead to avoid being noticed by the gunman.

In addition to Pargas’ retirement and Arredondo’s ouster, victims families and some lawmakers have called in recent months for the resignation or firing of Col. Steve McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Body camera footage, a legislative investigation and media reports have shown the state police had a larger role at the scene than the department appeared to suggest in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Ninety-one DPS troopers were among the 376 law enforcement officers who ultimately responded. Seven were put under internal investigation this summer, but McCraw has defended his agency’s overall response, saying it “did not fail” Uvalde.

At a meeting Wednesday of the Uvalde County commissioners’ court, community members called on Pargas to resign from the panel. Pargas, who was re-elected to county government on Nov. 8, was absent from the meeting, the Uvalde Leader-News reported.

Berlinda Arreola, whose 10-year-old granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed, said Pargas needed to do “the right thing” and step down, according to CNN.

“He was a coward that day and he’s cowardly now, that he couldn’t show face,” Arreola said.

At a school board meeting the same day, Josh Gutierrez was named interim chief of police for the Uvalde school district.

Interim superintendent Gary Patterson opened the meeting by talking about the courage that the families of the victims have shown. Patterson takes the spot from Hal Harrell, who announced last month his plans to retire.

“We have all the respect in the world for how you’ve handled things in the worst possible circumstance,” Patterson said.

School district trustees on Wednesday also approved the location of the new school that will replace Robb Elementary, deciding it will be built next to another school a few miles away. The board decided months ago to demolish Robb Elementary and on Wednesday recommended forming a committee to decide what should happen to the site. ___

Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report. ___

Read AP’s full coverage of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the...
Associated Press

Antisemitic celebrities stoke fears of normalizing hate

(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)U.S. Desk: Please file at 9a EST Saturday. NYSS504-507 are on hold.(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) A surge of anti-Jewish vitriol, spread by a world-famous rapper, an NBA star and other prominent people, is stoking fears that public figures are normalizing hate and ramping up the risk of violence in a country already experiencing a sharp increase in antisemitism. […]
7 hours ago
A car destroyed by Russian shelling sits in a field in Posad-Pokrovske village, in the Kherson regi...
Associated Press

Ukraine urges tougher Western squeeze on Russian oil prices

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Saturday for a lower price cap on Russian oil than the one agreed to by Ukraine’s Western supporters, while Russian authorities called the $60-per-barrel cap harmful to free, stable markets. Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy’s office, wrote on social media that the […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., celebrates with his supporters af...
Associated Press

Iowa caucuses, built on myth, lose place at head of the line

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Hy-Vee Hall ballroom in Des Moines erupted in cheers in 2008 when the youthful Illinois senator hinted at the improbable possibility of the feat ahead: “Our time for change has come!” That Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state, would propel Barack Obama’s rise to become America’s first Black president seemed […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump, left, and Michigan Republican attorney general candidate Matt...
Associated Press

Defeated election conspiracists seek to lead Michigan GOP

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republicans who lost their races for Michigan’s top three statewide offices after promoting falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election are not planning to go quietly. Two of the candidates who denied President Joe Biden’s victory in the state have announced plans to run for the position that leads the state […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Estonia to buy U.S. rocket artillery system in $200M deal

HELSINKI (AP) — NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced U.S. rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday. A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment […]
7 hours ago
Migrant workers with their belongings leave a barricaded village after authorities' easing of COVID...
Associated Press

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport. The slight relaxation of testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Acting Uvalde police chief during school shooting steps down