Uvalde Police Department’s acting police chief placed on leave after report outlines failed response

City of Uvalde acknowledges ‘failure of command,’ mayor says all agencies involved should conduct review of commanders’ actions

Uvalde Police Department Acting Chief Lt. Mariano Pargas (on right). (Facebook/The Associated Press)

UVALDE – The mayor of Uvalde announced Sunday that the city’s acting police chief on the day of the Robb Elementary School massacre has been placed on leave after a new report found wide failures by law enforcement, according to the Associated Press.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Lt. Mariano Pargas had been placed on administrative leave to determine whether he was responsible for taking command after a gunman entered the school, killing 19 children and two teachers. The city will conduct an internal investigation into the Uvalde Police Department’s response.

The announcement comes after a report released earlier Sunday by investigators faulted multiple levels of law enforcement during the May 24 shooting.

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On Sunday, the Mayor of Uvalde shared a press release addressing the findings of the report, saying he agreed with the committee’s findings.

“The City has a responsibility to evaluate the response to the incident by the Uvalde Police Department, which includes Lt. Pargas’ role as the acting Chief. This administrative leave is to investigate whether Lt. Pargas was responsible for taking command on May 24th, what specific actions Lt. Pargas took to establish that command, and whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved and other possible policy violations,” McLaughlin wrote.

“We agree with the Committee’s review of the incident, there was failure of command. However, we have further questions as to who was responsible for taking command as each agency there had senior level commanders on site. We want to know which agency took what specific actions to take command, and where did the critical breakdown occur,” the mayor wrote.

“As Mayor of Uvalde, the City only has any authority over its own police force. Which is why I support the City’s decision to place Lt. Pargas on administrative leave and conduct a full internal investigation. However, it is imperative that each agency onsite at Robb School that day commits to the same process and investigates their highest ranking, onsite officers’ actions,” McLaughlin’s statement reads.

The city’s investigation into Uvalde Police Department’s response will begin following the release of UPD officers’ official statements to DPS, which were taken immediately after the incident, McLaughlin said.

A specific review of Lt. Pargas’ actions as Acting Chief of Police that day will be detailed in the investigation, according to the release.

Jesse Prado has been tapped by Uvalde to conduct the investigation.

Pargas joins Arredondo on leave

Pargas is the second law enforcement officer to be placed on leave in response to the shooting.

Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo has faced criticism in the two months since the shooting and has largely been blamed as the on-site commander by Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials. He was placed on leave by the school district superintendent earlier this month.

Uvalde officials initially defended law enforcement response

The City of Uvalde painted its law enforcement officers as “heroes” that had “zero hesitation” and saved hundreds of people in the May 24 attack on Robb Elementary School, according to a document presented to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The document, titled “Narrative,” was presented by Uvalde officials during a June 2 meeting — just more than a week after an 18-year-old gunman ambushed two adjoining classrooms and killed 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers. He was in the school for more than an hour before officers breached the door and killed him.

The one-page “Narrative” obtained by KSAT on Saturday morning showed that city officials attempted to lay out their own version of the response.

“The total number of persons saved by the heroes that are local law enforcement and the other assisting agencies is over 500 per UCISD,” the document states. “40 minutes were not wasted but each minute was used to save lives of children and teachers.”


About the Authors:

Victoria Lopez is a Digital Journalist at KSAT. Before joining the team in July 2022, she worked as a Digital Reporter at CBS 4 Rio Grande Valley and Local 23 News. Victoria graduated with a degree in Mass Communications — Public Relations from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.