Two law enforcement officials criticized in DOJ report for Uvalde response advance in reelection efforts

Copy of the Department of Justice's report about the shooting at Robb Elementary School, at the Herby Ham Activity Center in Uvalde on Jan. 18, 2024. (Chris Stokes For The Texas Tribune, Chris Stokes For The Texas Tribune)

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A Uvalde County law enforcement official named in the Justice Department’s report detailing the botched police response to the Robb Elementary School shooting won his respective Republican primary for reelection Tuesday evening and another is headed to a runoff after winning the largest share of votes, according to unofficial results.

Sheriff Ruben Nolasco and Uvalde County Constable Emmanuel Zamora were both highlighted for their inaction on May 24, 2022 when hundreds of law enforcement officers waited more than an hour to take down the school shooter. Some of the families of the victims have demanded accountability — in the form of criminal charges — from officers who responded to Texas’ deadliest school shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. .

Nolasco won 39% of the votes, over three Republican challengers. He will face former Texas Department of Public Safety official Otto Arnim in the runoff. The Justice Department’s January report about the shooting repeatedly named Nolasco in its scathing criticism of responding officers.

“Sheriff Nolasco did not seek out or establish a command post, establish unified command, share the intelligence he learned from both relatives, nor did he assign an intelligence officer to gather intelligence on the subject,” the report read.

Uvalde County Constable for Precinct 6, Zamora, won his race with 64% of the votes against Republican challenger Robert Moss.

Zamora was named in the DOJ report, along with Uvalde County Constable for Precinct 1, Johnny Field, who was also up for reelection. Field lost his race by 23 points to Uvalde Police Department detective Max Dorflinger.

In naming Zamora, Nolasco and Field, the report said no leader from any of the other responding agencies “effectively questioned the decisions and lack of urgency” of Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo. Arredondo was listed as the incident commander in the district’s active-shooter plan but did not provide appropriate leadership, according to the report.

The three incumbents did not attend a February debate during which Robb Elementary families hoped to demand answers from the candidates, according to News 4 San Antonio.

Families of the victims received official acknowledgement of the botched police response when the nation’s top law enforcement officials traveled to their hometown to confirm the delayed response cost lives.

The results point to a rift in the community between the families of the victims, some of whom have demanded criminal charges against responding officers, and Uvalde residents who would like to move past the tragedy. The political division was also on display in November when Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter died in the Robb Elementary shooting, lost her bid to become mayor of Uvalde.

In January, a special grand jury was convened to investigate law enforcement’s delayed response to the shooting to determine whether criminal charges can be filed against officers. It’s not clear which officers, if any, could face criminal charges.

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Correction, : An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Nolasco as the winner of the sheriff's race. Because Nolasco did not win 50% of the vote in this race he will enter a runoff against challenger Otto Arnim.

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