A group of parents and relatives of victims in the Robb Elementary School shooting who stood defiant outside district headquarters for more than 10 days, demanding action over officers’ response to the massacre, finally received the news they waited for.
On Friday, the district announced that it will be suspending “all activities of the Uvalde CISD Police Department for a period of time” and placing Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller on administrative leave. Subsequently, Superintendent Hal Harrell announced that he will retire.
Brett Cross, the guardian of Uziyah Garcia who remained steadfast in the protest, sent one of his last Tweets from his camp as the news broke.
“245 hr update!!! We did it! And we are going home!” he posted. He told KSAT that he was heading home for long-awaited rest.
245 hr update!!! We did it! And we are going home! pic.twitter.com/by9hJOLKRf— Brett Cross (@BCross052422) October 7, 2022
Cross, his wife Nikki, and several other parents and relatives of victims had been protesting district leaders, demanding that Harrell suspend the officers who stood in the school hallway for 77 minutes as the gunman remained inside the classrooms.
Harrell pushed back, saying they needed to wait for the results of the investigations.
Parents, including the Crosses, were seen packing up the camp and embracing each other on Friday.
Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, said Brett Cross and the Lives Robbed group led to the change.
“He (Brett Cross) needs to be home, he needs to be with his family, he took it for the team,” Arreola said. “This is the perfect example of why we didn’t stop. This is the perfect example of why we kept fighting.”
Javier Cazares, the father of Jackie Cazares, called it “a good win” and a “stepping stone” for justice.
“They’re telling us to move on ... how can we move on when our kids are gone?” he said.
Javier Cazares said they’re “not going to stop” advocating for their kids and survivors.
The May 24 shooting resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers and spurred weeks’ worth of outrage, aimed at UCISD, the Department of Public Safety and other first responders.
The group of relatives had been stationed outside the district since Tuesday, Sept. 27, camping out with canopies, chairs and cots, and playing videos of their children on the side of a building.
On Twitter, Brett Cross repeatedly made himself clear: “I’m not going anywhere.”
In one of his videos posted last week, Brett Cross said Mueller, the director of student services, “put his hands on me” when Mueller tried to enter the district building. A video showed Mueller trying to move Brett Cross aside at the entrance. Mueller opted to retire after being placed on administrative leave, UCISD said.
Lives Robbed, a group that has protested the response delay and called for tougher gun laws, celebrated on Friday by re-Tweeting the UCISD statement and media reports.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose jurisdiction includes Uvalde, praised the families for their determination.
“Thanks to the persistence of Brett Cross and all of the Uvalde families, a step towards accountability has been made today. UCISD has suspended its officers. This cannot be the end; we still need full transparency and justice from every agency and every level of government that failed us in Uvalde,” Gutierrez said.
UCISD said that “recent developments” led to Friday’s announcement.
Read the full statement below.
Records obtained by KSAT showed that Hernandez knew about a recently hired officer, Crimson Elizondo, being under investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety for her response to the attack.
Elizondo, who was one of the first troopers on the scene, mainly stayed outside the building. She was seen on body cam footage saying, “If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that,” CNN reported.
She left DPS in the summer and was hired by the school district. UCISD fired her on Thursday after reports about her employment surfaced.
Since then, parents have also called for DPS Director Steve McCraw to resign.
UCISD said currently employed officers will “fill other roles in the district.”
DPS troopers will patrol campuses and extracurricular activities.
The district said it is still waiting for the results of an investigation by the Texas Police Chiefs Association and an external group, JPPI Investigations.