No mass exodus: Only a single officer has departed Uvalde PD since school massacre

Uvalde city manager tells reporter to ‘enjoy the view from your high horse’ after KSAT pushes for greater transparency from agency

Uvalde city officials have released limited records since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

UVALDE, Texas – In the month following the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, only a single officer from the Uvalde Police Department has departed the agency, city officials confirmed to the KSAT 12 Defenders.

The officer, who was just shy of reaching four years of service with Uvalde PD, recently resigned to take a position with the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, where he previously worked.

Uvalde PD, which Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records show has more than 50 officers, currently has two officer job openings, according to the city’s website.

Uvalde PD officers were among the first to enter Robb Elementary School on May 24 as part of a law enforcement response that has been widely criticized and marked by misinformation and a changing police narrative in the weeks since a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers.

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Col. Steve McCraw, last week described the decision by officers to wait in the hallway for more than an hour before breaching the classroom and engaging the gunman as an “abject failure” by police.

McCraw, during the same testimony before a Texas Senate committee, doubled down on his criticism of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who has been labeled by law enforcement officials as the on-scene commander.

After the Defenders last week asked Uvalde officials for the number of officers who had departed the police department since the massacre, Uvalde City Manager Vince DiPiazza wrote that one officer departed but that DiPiazza did not “really think it’s necessary” to give us his name.

After the Defenders pointed out that the officers are public employees, DiPiazza provided the officer’s name and wrote via email, “Don’t need a lecture from you, sir, about public employees. I’ve been working with these fine people for the last 36+ years. One person’s conceal is another’s simple consideration. You’re not really interested in truth, just in proving a point. However, I’m not inclined to deny something that you’re probably entitled to get anyway, and if we have our way, we’re going to be releasing everything we can. Enjoy the view from your high horse. Life has bucked me off of mine. Hope you have better luck.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin last week said in a written statement that information obtained by members of the media from sources close to the investigation was incomplete and “a disservice to families who lost children or parents.”

His vow to stay silent on developments with the school shooting investigation lasted just hours, however, as he proceeded to then slam McCraw during a city council meeting hours after the statement was distributed to the media.

McLaughlin said McCraw has “continued to lie, leak, mislead information” during the investigation.

“They’re the ones that have all this information. Even we don’t have it. We don’t have this information,” the mayor said, referring to the FBI, DPS, the district attorney for Uvalde County and the state legislature.

The city of Uvalde, however, is a custodian of record for much of the information sought by the media related to the massacre, including 911 dispatch records.

And while top city officials have claimed they intend to be transparent, the city has hired an outside law firm that in recent weeks has sent blanket records request denial letters stating that the city “has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public.”

Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo signed paperwork in private May 31 to officially be sworn in as a Uvalde city councilman. (KSAT)

Other than information determined to be confidential, such as driver’s license numbers and peace officer home addresses, a public entity is not required by the Texas Public Information Act to withhold information.

Uvalde’s outside firm, for example, this month released limited records to the Defenders related to the secret swearing-in of Arredondo to city council on May 31.

UCISD silent on status of officers

Arredondo was placed on administrative leave from his school district police chief’s position last week, and could eventually be removed from his District 3 city council seat if he continues to not show up for meetings.

UCISD officials last week announced Arredondo was placed on leave but have refused to say whether he continues to be paid while on leave.

A UCISD spokeswoman also did not respond to an inquiry from the Defenders asking whether any members of the district’s six-person department have left the agency following the massacre.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.