Uvalde school district suspends its entire police department
Uvalde school officials on Friday suspended all of the district police department’s activities following the firing of a recently hired district officer who was revealed to have been among the first state troopers to respond to the deadly school shooting in May.
Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller were placed on leave, and other officers employed with the department will fill other roles in the district, according to a Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District press release issued Friday. Mueller decided to retire, the release said.
The release did not specify why Hernandez and Mueller were placed on leave. A district spokesperson did not immediately return phone and email messages.
The decision arrived 10 days after protesters set up at the UCISD administrative building to demand the removal of officers from campus grounds until investigations into the police department’s response to the shooting are complete.
The district said decisions regarding the future of the department had been pending the results of two investigations, but it suspended the department’s activities Friday citing “recent developments that have uncovered additional concerns with department operations.”
Earlier this week, the school district fired a recently hired district police officer after it became public that she was one of the first state troopers to arrive at Robb Elementary on May 24, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. The delayed police response has drawn wide scrutiny and remains under investigation.
School officials fired Crimson Elizondo after CNN reported she was among at least five current and former Department of Public Safety officers the agency is investigating for their response to the shooting.
Elizondo was hired by the school district’s police department after leaving her DPS job. Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday told reporters during a campaign stop in New Braunfels that the school district had asked DPS about Elizondo.
A July 28 memo to Hernandez from DPS flagged that an allegation of “actions inconsistent with training and Department requirements” regarding Elizondo remained under investigation.
ABC News reported Thursday that Hernandez confirmed receipt, writing “Got it, thank you so much, MRH,” according to the news report. “MRH” are Hernandez’s initials.
It is unclear whether Elizondo was hired before or after the district received the DPS memo.
Hernandez was at the helm of the school district’s police force after the school system’s board fired the previous chief, Pete Arredondo, who had received much of the early blame for the law enforcement’s delayed response in confronting the gunman.
In total, 376 law enforcement officers responded to the Robb Elementary shooting but none immediately took the lead to coordinate the scene.
No one stopped the gunman due, in part, to what a House investigative committee called “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by nearly everyone involved who was in a position of power.
Upon suspending the police department, the district asked DPS for extra troopers for campus and extra-curricular activities, according to the Friday news release.
Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old who was among the 19 students killed in the shooting, was walking into her workplace when she received an email with news about the suspension of the school district’s police department. Arreola told her supervisor she had to go.
“Go go go go,” the boss told her.
She went to meet other family members of the victims, who have been gathering outside the school district to protest. Arreola said she hugged everybody.
“This was a huge step,” she said. “But there's still a lot of, there's still a lot more that needs to be done and so we're going to continue the fight because we're not done.”
Jinitzail Hernández and Uriel García contributed to this story.