Uvalde mayor says interim police chief will be gone ‘by the end of the week’ following release of CNN report

Lt. Mariano Pargas reportedly knew about room ‘full of victims’ during May 24 shooting

SAN ANTONIO – The mayor of Uvalde says the interim police chief who reportedly knew about victims at Robb Elementary School while responding to the massacre will be gone from the Uvalde Police Department “by the end of the week,” if not earlier.

Mayor Don McLaughlin told CNN that Lt. Mariano Pargas — who was suspended over the summer after a report revealed failures by law enforcement — failed to properly handle the response to the May 24 shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers. See a portion of the interview in the video player above.

CNN interviewed the mayor on Tuesday, a day after the news outlet released audio recordings of Pargas speaking with the 911 dispatcher and knowing that there was a room “full of victims.”

Pargas was informed by a dispatcher that eight to nine students were possibly still alive at 12:16 p.m., nearly 45 minutes after the gunman entered the school, according to CNN. The gunman wasn’t killed until about 12:50 p.m.

This image from video released by the City of Uvalde, Texas shows city police Lt. Mariano Pargas responding to a shooting at Robb Elementary School, on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Pargas was the acting chief for the city on the day of the shooting and was placed on administrative leave in July. (City of Uvalde via AP) (City of Uvalde)

The report shows that a top law enforcement officer knew about children who were possibly still alive in the classrooms as the gunman remained holed up for 77 minutes.

McLaughlin told CNN that he was outraged following the release of the report, and if the city knew about the video, then Pargas “would have been gone sooner.”

“This just goes to show what we originally put him on leave for: his failure to act and set up a command situation,” he said. “And then as an acting chief of police, he gets this information and does nothing with it, what I saw.”

The mayor said this “smells of a cover-up.”

McLaughlin said Pargas “will not be a member of the Uvalde police department” by the end of the week “if not sooner.”

He added that the city has not been briefed on the investigation by law enforcement.

CNN’s release of recordings

Khloie Torres, 10, who was inside Room 112, was able to call 911 at 12:10 p.m. and tell them she was in a room “full of victims.”

That call information was relayed over the Uvalde police radio channel four minutes later, and relayed directly to Pargas two minutes after that, CNN reported.

“The calls you got in from the … from one of the students, what did they say?” Pargas asks, according to CNN.

“OK, Khloie’s going to be, it’s Khloie. She’s in Room 112, Mariano, 112,” the dispatcher says.

When Pargas asks how many people were still alive, the dispatcher responds, “eight to nine are still alive. She’s not too sure … She’s not too sure how many are actually DOA or possibly injured. We’re trying …”

Pargas says “OK, OK thanks” and then hangs up, CNN reported.

He relayed that information to a Border Patrol agent inside the hallway at 12:17 p.m. but didn’t mention it to a Texas Ranger a minute later.

Surveillance footage showed Pargas leaving the hallway near Room 112 at 12:20 p.m. and not returning, CNN reported.

CNN’s report was released nearly a week after Uvalde residents re-elected Pargas as the Uvalde County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Pargas won the election with 45% of the vote, beating three write-in challengers — Javier J. Cazares, Diana Olvedo-Karau and Julio Valdez.

Cazares is the father of Jackie, a student who died during the shooting.

Pargas was initially uncontested for the position he’d held for more than 15 years until the challengers emerged. Valdez received 34% of the vote, Cazares had 16%, and Olvedo-Karau had 4%.

When reached by CNN on Monday, Pargas told the news outlet that he couldn’t speak about the police department, based on guidance from his lawyers.

“I want to defend myself. I really do,” Pargas told CNN. “There’s a lot of stuff that I can explain, that I would love to defend myself. And that’s the problem we’re having right now … the victims and everybody’s saying everything they want to say, but we can’t say nothing because we were told not to talk to, you know, we can’t say anything cause we’re still under that, not to talk to any, media or anything.”

“It’s not that we’re afraid because there’s nothing to be afraid of. We did what we could, but the thing is that we’ve been told that we can’t (speak publicly),” he said.

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About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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