Uvalde dad: School police chief on leave is ‘step forward’

U.S.

(NewsNation) — For Javier Cazares, the wounds are still raw. The Texas father marked his daughter’s 10th birthday next to her grave.

Little Jackie Cazares died when a gunman opened fire on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. She is one of 21 victims killed in the massacre.

Questions have mounted over the police response to the elementary school shooting. Officials say law enforcement arrived to the school three minutes after the gunman entered the school, but armed officers waited more than an hour in a school hallway while the shooter unleashed gunfire. And they did so while parents urged police outside of the school to rescue students who were making desperate pleas for help to 911 dispatchers.

So, who made the call to wait before breaching the classroom and confronting the shooter? Authorities have pointed to Pete Arredondo, chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.

Col. Steven McCraw with the Texas Department of Public Safety has publicly criticized Arredondo’s actions or lack thereof, saying Arredondo made “terrible decisions” as the on-site commander.

“The officers had weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes, and eight seconds — that is how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued,” McCraw said, also adding: “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said.

McCraw seems to be echoing concerns of Uvalde parents and community members, frustrated with a lack of transparency about the police response. Cazares has been demanding accountability since the day he lost his daughter.

“They should have rushed in, you know, that didn’t happen. You know, more policemen came in, in increments. They were there unprepared,” Cazares said.

Wednesday, the school district in Uvalde placed Arredondo on leave. Cazares calls it a baby step forward.  

“It all goes back to the policemen, you know, from the DPS to everyone that was in that hall,” Cazares said. “They didn’t do their job and you see it now even more that you know more things are popping up and they didn’t even try it. They didn’t check the door if it was locked or not. That is ridiculous. I believe that things could have been different if they would have gone a lot sooner if they checked that door.”

Cazares continues to fight for answers as he grieves the loss of his little girl.

“After we buried her, you know, we celebrated her birthday on June 10 there at the cemetery. It’s been very, very hard. We all have our moments. We try to be strong, but it’d be different if she had cancer and we were prepared for something or her passing, but she was taken away from us, so young and so violently. It’s hard.”

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