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Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author

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Opinion

Every officer at Uvalde massacre must be held accountable

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Ruben Navarrette

Columnist, host & author

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On May 24, 2022, local teenager Salvador Ramos opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing nineteen children and two teachers. More than one hundred law enforcement officers idled outside of the school for over an hour while children trapped inside classrooms called 911 and begged for help. A new DOJ investigative report cites a range of failures at Uvalde but stops short of recommending punitive action against law enforcement.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette is furious at the apparent inability to hold law enforcement officers and supervisors accountable for the Uvalde massacre and demands that every single officer present that day must face punishment — and their bosses, too. In the wake of no perceivable accountability, Navarrette asks: Do Mexican American lives matter?

Ultimately, after more than an hour, it was a special unit from the Border Patrol that stormed the school and took out the shooter. And the public is supposed to believe, because it’s convenient for the powers that be in Texas, that all the blame for this fiasco rests with one man: Arredondo, who by the way also happens to be Mexican American, which some might hope could help blunt accusations of racism.

I don’t buy it, not any of it. Sure, many mistakes were made, including many by Arredondo. He didn’t treat the massacre as an active shooter situation, instead mistakenly assuming that the suspect was barricaded with hostages. He waited for keys to a door that was ultimately unlocked. And he tried to wear two hats at once, serving both his overall commanding officer and a first responder at the scene. That’s hard to do.

All this the report makes clear, but the screw-up was so big that responsibility for it has to stretch beyond one man. What about higher-ups, like Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Rangers? He spent the days after the massacre trying to save his own skin. McGraw should have been fired long ago for his failure to command his officers who were at Robb Elementary. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who co-authored the DOJ’s report, pulled no punches.

“Every day police officers run towards danger to keep people safe,” [Gupta] said, “and yet in Uvalde on May 24, 2022, that did not happen until far too late.”

The hundreds of law enforcement officers who were at the scene of that terrible massacre, about 375 of them, in fact, raised their hand, took an oath to protect the public. And each and every one of them violated that pledge. For that, they and everyone who supervised them need to be held accountable. Let’s get on with it.

Well, we’ve heard that Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, even All Lives Matter. Now I have to ask, do Mexican American lives matter? Not in Texas, they don’t.

 

They sure don’t seem to matter much in Texas law enforcement, including the fabled Texas Rangers. A contingent of rangers descended on Robb Elementary School in the small town of Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022, along with hundreds of local and state police officers, to respond to a mass shooting. A lot of good that did.

 

A massacre ensued, where nineteen students and two teachers were killed, most of the victims Mexican American.

 

In the early 1900s, according to historians, the Rangers, on orders from wealthy white landowners, terrorized Mexican Americans through a series of mass lynchings. In Uvalde, all the Rangers did was dilly dally around an active shooter situation and do nothing for 77 minutes, while kids called 911 and pled for help on their cell phones with hushed voices. 20 months after the tragedy, the families and Uvalde, a town of just 15,000 people, are broken, and no one is in a mood to simply move on. Not without firings, apologies and accountability.

 

The Justice Department of the Biden Administration tried to provide answers. A DOJ investigative team spent weeks in Uvalde carrying out more than 260 interviews and inspecting more than 14,000 pieces of evidence. Recently, it released its findings in a nearly 600-page report. It tells us what we already knew: The cops failed the kids.

 

One name that comes up early and often: Pete Arredondo, the lowly chief of the school district police who we are supposed to believe ran the entire show. Let me get this straight. There were, on that day, at least five different law enforcement agencies at the school: The Baldy School District Police, the Uvalde Police Department, the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, including the Rangers, and even the U.S. Border Patrol. They didn’t do much, but they were all there.

 

Ultimately, after more than an hour, it was a special unit from the Border Patrol that stormed the school and took out the shooter. And the public is supposed to believe, because it’s convenient for the powers that be in Texas, that all the blame for this fiasco rests with one man: Arredondo, who by the way also happens to be Mexican American, which some might hope could help blunt accusations of racism.

 

I don’t buy it, not any of it. Sure, many mistakes were made, including many by Arredondo. He didn’t treat the massacre as an active shooter situation, instead mistakenly assuming that the suspect was barricaded with hostages. He waited for keys to a door that was ultimately unlocked. And he tried to wear two hats at once, serving both his overall commanding officer and a first responder at the scene. That’s hard to do. All this the report makes clear, but the screw-up was so big that responsibility for it has to stretch beyond one man. What about higher-ups, like Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Rangers? He spent the days after the massacre trying to save his own skin. McGraw should have been fired long ago for his failure to command his officers who were at Robb Elementary. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who co-authored the DOJ’s report, pulled no punches. “Every day police officers run towards danger to keep people safe,” [Gupta] said, “and yet in Uvalde on May 24, 2020, that did not happen until far too late.”

 

The hundreds of law enforcement officers who were at the scene of that terrible massacre, about 375 of them, in fact, raised their hand, took an oath to protect the public. And each and every one of them violated that pledge. For that, they and everyone who supervised them need to be held accountable. Let’s get on with it.

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