AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Less than half of all local Uvalde peace officers had completed active shooter training when the Robb Elementary School mass shooting occurred on May 24, a KXAN investigation found.
Months later, these officers and “hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies — many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police,” continue to face scrutiny regarding the actions taken over the course of 73 minutes from the time officers arrived on scene to when the shooter was neutralized, as detailed in the Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee report on the Robb Elementary Shooting.
Forty-one of those who responded were local officers from the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, according to the report.
The report stated responders “failed to adhere to their active shooter training.”
However, KXAN found besides officers with the school district, the “active shooter training” referenced numerous times throughout the report had never been completed by many members of Uvalde law enforcement.
KXAN focused its analysis primarily on local Uvalde officers because the identities of every individual officer who responded to the scene have not been released. However, the House Committee investigation reported the following breakdown of responders by agency:
- Uvalde CISD Police Department – five responders
- Uvalde Police Department – 25 responders
- Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office – 16 responders
- Other local, state, and federal agencies – 330 responders
KXAN reviewed Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, or TCOLE, records related to the law enforcement experience and training history of every licensed peace officer with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department, the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Uvalde CISD website, its police department currently consists of five police officers.
On May 24, there were six active police officers with the Uvalde CISD Police Department, with a total of nearly 100 years of combined law enforcement experience, according to TCOLE records.
The Texas Education Code requires all school-based law enforcement officers to complete active shooter training. TCOLE records state all six of the UCISD officers had completed the required active shooter training.
Five of the six UCISD officers had completed eight hours of active shooter training in December 2021, approximately five months before the Robb Elementary School shooting, according to TCOLE. The sixth officer, who is no longer listed on Uvalde’s website, completed the eight-hour active shooter training in August 2020.
According to TCOLE records, two UCISD officers had completed more active shooter training hours than UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo over the course of their careers.
KXAN reached out to Uvalde CISD for a comment on the effectiveness of the active shooter trainings its officers have completed and will update this story when we receive a response.
With the exception of school-based law enforcement officers, active shooter training is not state-mandated for Texas peace officers.
According to the Texas Administrative Code, peace officers are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education every two years. Outside of state-mandated courses, officers can complete the training of their choice.
KXAN looked at the training and experience of all Uvalde Police officers and sheriff deputies who were actively employed with these agencies on May 24.
According to the House Committee report, 25 Uvalde Police Department officers responded to the Robb Elementary School shooting.
On May 24, there were 44 active peace officers employed with the Uvalde Police Department, according to TCOLE. Nearly half of them had never received active shooter training.
Among the Uvalde Police officers without active shooter training on May 24 was the acting chief of police.
Additionally, KXAN found far fewer deputies with the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office had ever completed active shooter training.
According to TCOLE, the sheriff’s office had 39 active peace officers on the day of the shooting, 16 of whom responded.
TCOLE records indicate only eight, approximately 20%, of the peace officers at UCSO had ever received active shooter training.
KXAN reached out to UPD and UCSO for comment and asked whether it is now requiring its officers to complete active shooter training. KXAN will update this story when we receive a response.
Currently, UPD, UCSO and UCID have job postings listed for peace officer positions according to each of their websites.
On Wednesday, a Travis County district judge denied a state senator’s request to order the Texas Department of Public Safety to release records related to the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, requested various records under public information laws that could provide more clarity on the emergency response following the Robb Elementary School shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers. After his request to DPS went unfulfilled, he sued.
In her order, Judge Catherine Mauzy cited issues in how Gutierrez requested the records.
“As [Gutierrez’s] request not properly submitted pursuant to Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.234, the Court did not consider whether the requested information is exempted from required public disclosure by the Texas Public Information Act,” the order said.
During the lawsuit hearing last Thursday, lawyers with the Texas Attorney General’s office argued Gutierrez’s open records request was not valid due to how it was submitted. The state argued his public information request needed to be submitted through its online PIR portal within the agency’s media relations office.
The DPS public information portal said, “electronic requests will be accepted only if they are sent through our Public Information Request page or emailed.” It also gives options for how to mail such requests.
“It’s just preposterous that we are arguing the semantics on how to deliver something, an open records request. The major point of these things is does the government have notice, actual or constructive? Well, guess what, they had both…they absolutely did nothing with it. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit to be honest with the people of Texas.”
Gutierrez told Nexstar he “respectfully disagrees” with the judge’s order. The senator said he emailed his letter to DPS requesting things like the department’s training manual to learn about active shooter protocol and documents related to the agency’s response. Gutierrez said the letter was also hand-delivered to Director Col. Steven McCraw.
The senator said he has filed many similar requests to state agencies throughout his political career, and the method has “never been an issue.”
The ruling comes as a win for state police, which has been able to keep secret the details of how 91 law enforcement officers responded to the shooting, nearly three months after the massacre at Robb Elementary. Judge Mauzy’s narrow ruling did not address whether DPS should be allowed to keep those records private.
During last week’s hearing on this lawsuit, Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee asked the judge to side with DPS, citing concerns that the release of records could interfere with ongoing investigations and her ability to potentially prosecute.
Information about law enforcement response that day has made it into the public eye, however. Leaks of hallway video and tidbits of information have been released through media outlets as pressure for answers mounts from Uvalde families still mourning. McCraw, despite Busbee’s request, gave a detailed account of the response to the Texas Senate on June 21, placing the lion’s share of blame on Uvalde CISD police chief Pete Arredondo. Additionally, the House Committee report detailed widespread failure from law enforcement responders in multiple agencies.
Gutierrez says the information he is seeking is “benign” to the investigation but critical to the families who are seeking accountability.
“It is very disturbing that the Department of Public Safety has continued to fail to disclose even the most benign information to the public. You shouldn’t need a lawsuit to be honest and transparent with people about what occurred,” he said.
More than a dozen media outlets are also suing DPS for withholding records related to law enforcement response on that day.
Gutierrez said he and his legal team are looking into appealing the order and will re-submit its open records request again.
DPS did offer to hand over the records to Gutierrez, but on the condition that he signs a non-disclosure agreement. Gutierrez has so far refused to sign and NDA and said he doesn’t plan on doing so.
“We’ll live to fight another day,” he said. “We’re gonna get to the bottom of this, whether it’s my lawsuit or the lawsuit of the media. But under no terms am I gonna stop this fight.”
Analysis: Beto O’Rourke’s explicit confrontation with heckler over gun control
The issue of gun control after the Uvalde school shooting fueled a memorable moment this week on the campaign trail. Democratic candidate for Texas governor, Beto O’Rourke, used explicit language during a passionate rebuttal of a heckler at one of his campaign events.
“Now, 11 weeks since we lost 19 kids and their two teachers, shot to death with a weapon originally designed for use in combat,” O’Rourke said. “Legally purchased by an 18 year old who did try to obtain one when he was 16 or 17, but followed the law that’s on the books, ladies and gentlemen.”
At one point during his intense speech about the mass killing in Uvalde, along with his stance on gun control, a protester — who the O’Rourke campaign identified as a protester in support of opponent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — laughed loudly.
“This individual is not in any way affiliated with [Abbott’s] campaign,” said Abbott’s Campaign Communication Director Mark Miner.
Regardless of who it was, O’Rourke whipped around, pointed at that man and said, “It may be funny to you motherf—-r, but it’s not funny to me, OK?” The crowd erupted in applause.
“When we think about the fall election, it’s all about turnout,” Brian Smith, a professor of political science at St. Edwards University, said. “So O’Rourke needs to find his voice if he’s going to beat Abbott. He’s trailing right now. He’s got to figure out a way to motivate his voters to come out and if cursing is working for him, then we might see more of it.”
It’s not the first time O’Rourke has cursed during campaign events, whether in relation to gun control, the media or other politicians. Smith said it’s a trend he’s seeing in politics — not just from O’Rourke, but others too.
“Sometimes it slips out,” he said. “So I don’t think it works like ‘oh, I’m going to use the F-bomb to try to get voters.’ I think it’s just in the heat of the moment. You use the word and sometimes, you know, in the heat of the moment, curse words are what we all resort to because they have that effect.”
O’Rourke has advocated for reversing the state’s permitless carry law, pursuing red flag laws and banning AR-15-style weapons, among other gun control measures in the wake of the Uvalde shooting. It’s likely to be a pivotal part of his campaign as we move closer to the fall, but especially if the Texas power grid holds this summer, it won’t be enough to close the gap with Abbott, Smith said.
“He’s got to figure out in the next three months, what else does Beto O’Rourke bring to the table? If it’s just swearing and gun control, that’s not going to be enough to defeat Governor Abbott,” he said.
In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, despite immense pressure from Democrats to call a special session on gun control, Abbott pointed instead to improving Texas’ mental health system and lack of resources.
“Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes. And there will be laws in multiple different subject areas. For example, I do fully expect to have every law that we pass in the aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting to be completely revisited,” Abbott has previously said.
As far as O’Rourke’s outburst, Abbott’s communications director did not comment, except to clarify the person in the crowd was not associated with the governor’s campaign.
“I think he’s just going to let this one go and say, when he runs his ads, just talking about ‘I am Greg Abbott, and here are my qualifications,’” Smith said.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke’s staff is leaning into his fiery, now viral, remarks.
“There’s nothing funny about 19 kids being shot to death in their classrooms, and there’s nothing OK about refusing to act so it doesn’t happen again,” said Chris Evans, communications director for O’Rourke.
Texas Water Development Board weighs how to spend portion of $2.9 billion in federal funding
The Texas Water Development Board is currently taking comments on part of the $2.9 billion coming to Texas’ water infrastructure through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding. That will be spread over the next 5 years. The comment period is for $750 million available through the State Revolving Funds.
This comes as the majority of Central Texas is under either extreme or severe drought conditions.
The state has released its draft of intended use for clean water and drinking water for fiscal year 2023, outlining different projects the state could funnel grant money to next year.
“Both these two programs will ultimately provide funding for our customers, utilities across the state for both safe drinking water as well as keeping the streams and water bodies clean,” TWDB Director of Program Administration & Reporting Mark Wyatt explained Wednesday.
These improvements are necessary not only to upgrade aging infrastructure but also to adjust for growth across the state.
“Clearly, with the need to maintain the compliance to keep up with the standards as areas grow, the capacity and their treatment systems need to keep up both with the drinking water and then the clean water systems. So, it’s an ongoing effort,” Wyatt said.
In economically disadvantaged communities, the funds will allow the state to foot 70% of the bill for water infrastructure projects.
“Last year, what we had is we had for the disadvantaged communities based on their income levels and the rates that they would be required to pay 30%, 50% and 70%. This year, we raised everybody to 70%,” Wyatt said.
“If the project came out as, we’ll just make up one $10 million, the $7 million would be the free portion, and the 3 million would be the portion that would be a loan. Now, again, remember the loans that we provide under both of these programs are considerably subsidized, whether it’s 40%, or 30%, depending on the category,” he continued.
However, the National Wildlife Federation told the board during Wednesday’s hearing that it wants that rate to be higher.
“We are really advocating for 100% grants for communities that are most disadvantaged, that are most in need of water infrastructure. This will really assure that communities that have not been able to historically access these funds will be able to receive [State Revolving Fund] funding if they cannot repay any loan portion,” Danielle Goshen, a policy specialist under the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program, explained Wednesday.
But Wyatt said that would come with a tradeoff.
“70% is certainly a very high and attractive amount. One has to consider though–the more you allocate to, and the higher the percentage, the fewer we can fund,” Wyatt said.
The board will accept public comment through August 20. Then, the board will weigh those recommendations and vote on the final plan before the end of the calendar year.
The board’s outlook on its future water usage plan is outlined below, courtesy of TWDB:
‘Flee Texas’ service launches to help LGBTQ people leave state
A for sale sign went up recently in front of the house that Lauren Rodriguez called her dream home. Even though she only moved in two years ago, her plan now is to sell it so that she and her family can not only leave the Austin area, but the country entirely.
“We’re definitely not staying in Texas,” Rodriguez said. “The goal is to hopefully leave the country, but I have to see if we can get that worked out. If not, we’ll try to go to a safer state, but it makes me nervous because I don’t know how long a state will be safe for.”
She credits the political climate in Texas and restrictions pursued by the state legislature related to the transgender community for cementing her decision to seek a life outside the U.S. She and her 18-year-old transgender son Greyson spent the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions going to the Capitol multiple times to testify against bills like the one that ultimately passed last year requiring Texas public school athletes to play sports based on their biological sex at birth. At least 18 states have now approved legislation banning trans athletes from participating in sports, according to the LGBTQ advocacy organization Athlete Ally.
She fears what proposals will come during the next session, pointing to the platform approved this summer by the Republican Party of Texas. The new language included labeling homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice” and opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” Some members opposed the language and worried it would hurt the party moving forward. After the vote, a group representing the state’s LGBTQ Republicans blasted the Texas Republican Convention as a bunch of “crazy people.”
Many LGBTQ advocates also said they expect state lawmakers to work toward codifying an executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year that directed the state’s child welfare agency to conduct abuse investigations into families with trans children.
“I had hope. I don’t have hope anymore,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone talks about the Austin area being blue. I feel like it’s really like a blue mirage. We moved here from a smaller town thinking we’d be safe. Two years later after building our dream home, we’re selling it because it’s still not safe.”
After hearing stories similar to Rodriguez’s, Bob McCranie, a gay Dallas-based realtor, created a new real estate service online called Flee Texas to help LGBTQ Texans. The website reads, “If you feel the need to leave the jurisdiction of Texas, let us help you sell your property here and connect you with an LGBTQIA or ally agent in a better location of your choice.”
“Almost every LGBTQ person I’m having dinner with or talking to or whatever has in the back of their mind, ‘What’s my plan B? How do I get out of here?’” McCranie said. “This is turning, and some of the people are responding, ‘Well, we should all just stay in fight.’ A lot of us have fought for — for me, 17 years. It’s just everybody’s thinking about, ‘Where do I go next?’”
Since the Flee Texas website went live, McCranie said it’s gotten at least 500 hits a month. However, no homes have been sold yet through this effort. He admits it’s perhaps too early for that now, but he said the upcoming legislative session or future Supreme Court cases may lead some to seek out assistance to find a new place to call home.
People recently expressed concerns about how the high court’s conservative majority might eventually rule on LGBTQ rights based on a separate opinion that Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in support of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. According to our news partners at The Hill, he called for the overturning of previous decisions based on that same precedent that created protections for access to contraception, same-sex intimacy and marriage equality.
“I’m an ambassador for Texas. I’m an ambassador for our cities to say, ‘Here’s a great place where you can live near parks, near whatever. Here’s a great house. Here’s all the excitement about being here,’” McCranie said. “I now have to shift that into: all this great stuff is tainted by the idea that you won’t be equal here. You may actually be threatened here, and your children may actually be taken away from you.”
McCranie pushed back on criticism that his Flee Texas tool may potentially capitalize on people’s fears.
“If you’re looking at this as a money-making venture, then you’re not seeing it from the perspective we are,” he said. “We’re here to help people improve their lives and get out from under the weight and the threat that’s there for their family, and that’s the service we’re providing.”
For Lauren Rodriguez and her family, they’re planning to relocate to New Zealand, a place more than 7,300 miles from Texas. She said she intends to secure a student visa so she can pursue a graduate degree at a university on the island nation located in the Pacific Ocean southeast of Australia.
She said New Zealand appealed to her family because of the country’s friendlier policies toward queer and trans people. For example, a law passed in December last year that made it easier for people to change the sex on their birth certificates, according to The Guardian.
Because of the lengthy visa approval process, though, Rodriguez doesn’t expect to be able to move there until July next year. She launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of moving and rental deposits in the meantime while her family waits for their home to sell.
The mother of another Texas transgender activist, Kai Shappley, also started an online fundraiser to help them leave the state. According to the Shappleys’ GoFundMe page, they were able to move from Texas after bringing in more than $50,000 in donations.
In a speech earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Gov. Abbott acknowledged people leaving Texas due to the political climate. He said the state seeing the most number of Texans moving there is California and then made a joke about the swap happening.
“Why would someone from Texas move to California? It’s because they like the Gavin Newsom type of liberalism, so we have an exchange program going on,” Abbott said to the crowd. “We’re getting the California conservatives. We’re sending them our liberals.”
Texas volunteers adapt as border policies, migrant demographics evolve
When asylum-seekers were first turned away under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program in 2019, a group of volunteers started Team Brownsville to help those trying to immigrate to the United States.
Ever since, the nonprofit organization has worked on both sides of the Rio Grande, helping asylum-seekers stranded in Mexico, and those who are legally released by the Department of Homeland Security north of the border, as they make a new life in America.
Team Brownsville is a respected and well-known organization that receives donations from across the globe.
Volunteers also are credited by migrant advocates for being able to change with the times, as they have adapted to new border security policies enacted over the years, as well as the changing demographics of asylum-seekers.
Andrea Rudnik, a Team Brownsville volunteer recently told Border Report that they have seen an increase in adult migrants coming from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua this summer.
About 200 to 300 migrants predominantly from these countries are being released daily by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers near the downtown bus station in Brownsville, Texas.
Team Brownsville has special permission from federal and city officials to assist the migrants in what is called the Portillo Building, across from the bus station.
Reporters aren’t allowed inside, but that’s where volunteers provide migrants with backpacks full of toiletries, blankets, food and clothes.
They also help them to make travel arrangements, most often on buses that depart frequently from this Gulf Coast border town headed to cities north.
“We’re all about meeting the needs as people come across. We’re there,” Rudnik said.
“We also work very closely with immigration attorneys. So, people who are processed for humanitarian parole that come across, we provide whatever services they need. Sometimes the person has a disability, sometimes they have a child with special needs. So we are there to meet those needs. Sometimes we buy a stroller or a car seat or a ticket to New York. It really just depends on the person,” Rudnik said.
Rudnik said she and her team were relieved to learn earlier this week that the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally called Migrant Protection Protocols, was legally ended by a judge.
But Rudnik recognizes that the work is far from over as Texas and Missouri fight to have the policy restarted.
They also want Title 42 to be lifted. The public health mandate has been in place since 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus and it prevents migrants from crossing to claim asylum.
“It’s not going to change anything for the NGOs who are working here in the Valley because we have thousands of people waiting in Reynosa and Matamoros are waiting to request asylum and they’re not in MPP but they’re waiting for Title 42 to lift so that they can cross the bridge and legally request asylum,” Rudnik said.
Reynosa, a dangerous northern Mexican border town just directly south of McAllen, Texas, is where thousands of migrants, predominantly from Haiti, are waiting, Border Report has been told by several NGOs.
The migrants currently crossing from the border town of Matamoros into Brownsville who are being legally paroled into the United States as their immigration proceedings process are from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — countries where the United States has a tough time convincing local leaders to allow the U.S. to repatriate migrants back to their homelands.
CBP reported over 207,000 encounters with migrants on the Southwest border in June, with total encounters so far this fiscal year at 1.7 million.