UVALDE, Texas – Update: June 21, 2022, 8:45 p.m.
The Uvalde mayor’s vow to stay silent on the developments with the Uvalde elementary school shooting investigation was short-lived Tuesday.
Hours after sending a press release saying the City of Uvalde wouldn’t comment on the investigation “for legal reasons,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin voiced his frustrations during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
His comments came just moments after the council voted unanimously to not grant UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo a leave of absence from future council meetings.
“The gloves are off. As we know it, we will share it,” McLaughlin said. “We kept quiet at the request because we thought... we were doing the right thing.”
During Tuesday’s council meeting, McLaughlin claimed that he has been kept in the dark by law enforcement and state agencies as the probe into the deadly Robb Elementary shooting continues.
He provided a timeline, shared below, of his recollection of events as they unfolded after May 24, the day of the shooting.
- May 25 - Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell and McLaughlin went to the command center at Robb Elementary School one day after the shooting. The mayor said he spoke with a Texas Ranger that was in charge and requested daily updates. Though the Rangers agreed, McLaughlin claims he has yet to hear any updates, to this day. “We’re in the dark just like you are, and we’re tired of it.”
- That same day, McLaughlin met with two U.S. senators, other legislators, school district employees and others, and was briefed by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. He also said that DPS briefed the governor that day without him.
- May 26 - According to McLaughlin, DPS released information to the public that was different information than what was given to him. McLaughlin didn’t specify what that information was, though he said this information later, “turned out to be false.”
- May 27 - McLaughlin claimed information from Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw contradicted previous press conferences and “caused more confusion.” He also said that part of this information was also “false,” but didn’t provide any specifics. The mayor said he tried to reach out to an FBI agent in charge, but only received a call back from a public relations agent with no answers. McLaughlin said he tried to get in touch with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office but had no success.
- May 28 - The mayor said he received a call from the U.S. Attorney and requested an independent review and transparency of what happened during the Robb Elementary shooting. His independent review request was granted. McLaughlin said he also met with President Biden during his visit to Uvalde, who also told him the review would happen. According to the mayor, that process has started.
- May 30/31 - An unnamed DPS source claimed Uvalde law enforcement was not cooperating with investigations into the Robb Elementary shooting, according to McLaughlin. He said this was also “false.”
- June 1 - McLaughlin said he requested a meeting with DPS to address “false leaks of information” coming from the investigation.
- June 2 - The mayor said he met with Gov. Abbott’s office and DPS to discuss the “false leaks.” McLaughlin said he asked DPS to make a statement and they agreed.
- He said the city was told by the Uvalde County District Attorney that she was the chief law enforcement officer and that “no one would be making any statements whatsoever unless it came straight from her office,” and that she was seeking a gag order to enforce it. McLaughlin said the DA also said the investigation into the shooting would span two years, which “shocked us all.”
McLaughlin claimed that McCraw has “continued to lie, leak, mislead information” during the course of the investigation. He added that there are four main agencies handling the shooting investigation — the FBI, DPS, the district attorney and the legislature.
“They’re the ones that have all this information. Even we don’t have it. We don’t have this information,” the mayor said.
The mayor closed out the session soon after being asked about the future of Robb Elementary. He said after speaking with the superintendent, it was his understanding that the school “will be demolished.”
As new information comes to light about law enforcement’s response to the Uvalde elementary school shooting, the Uvalde mayor said he and other city officials can’t comment about it due to legal obligations.
On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety director testified in front of a House committee about the Uvalde shooting investigation, calling the response from law enforcement an “abject failure.” He also placed blame on the Uvalde school district police chief Pete Arredondo, claiming he made “terrible decisions.”
Earlier in the day before the director’s testimony, an image surfaced online from the surveillance video inside Robb Elementary during the shooting, showing that officers were armed with ballistic shields, guns and other tools while in the hallway, ready to approach the gunman despite Arredondo’s orders to wait.
With these new developments in the investigation, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said, for now, the city will not be commenting on the investigation or releasing any records that pertain to the Robb Elementary shooting at the request of the district attorney.
Although the city has received many requests for the body cam videos, he said those requests and other investigative records should be directed to the DA and the Texas Dept. of Public Safety/Texas Rangers.
“The premature release of anything related to the May 24 Department of Public Safety (DPS)/Texas Rangers investigation or Critical Incident Review by the Department of Justice is a disservice to families who lost children or parents because the true facts need to come out once all investigations/reviews, which the City expects will be thorough and fair, are complete,” McLaughlin said. “To date, the DPS and the Uvalde County District Attorney has not provided the City with any information on their investigation.”
According to the mayor, information that has been released in the investigation that hasn’t come from the city of Uvalde is “incomplete.”
“The City of Uvalde and its Police Department strive for transparency every day and will evaluate release of City records related to this investigation when appropriate,” McLaughlin said.
The Law Firm of Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal & Zech is representing the City of Uvalde during the course of the shooting investigation and prohibits “governing lawyers from providing or sharing any information about the legal representation of the City with members of the public, including members of the news media,” the mayor’s statement said.
“There is no coverup. Anyone who suggests the City of Uvalde is withholding information without legitimate and legal reasons is wrong and is spreading misinformation,” McLaughlin said. “There are specific legal reasons the City cannot release information at this time. For the past month, my number one priority is a transparent and thorough investigation to give our grieving families the answers they deserve. And, to hopefully prevent another community from having to live through a tragedy like this.”
In addition to being the Uvalde CISD chief of police, Arredondo was sworn in as a city councilman in a private ceremony the week after the shooting.
He has not made an appearance at a Council meeting and has largely been in hiding since the shooting.
Uvalde City Council members are slated to vote Tuesday night on “granting a leave of absence from future council meetings to Councilman Pete Arredondo,” according to a meeting agenda.