Uwald School District suspends school police force, 2 school officials placed on administrative leave


The Uwald Integrated Independent School District said on Friday it had suspended its school police force less than five months after the attack that killed 19 children and two teachers.

“The district has decided to suspend all activities at the Uvalde CISD Police Station for a period of time. Officers currently employed will serve in other roles in the district,” the district said in a statement.

Also, Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller have been placed on administrative leave, with Mueller opting to retire, the statement said.

“The school district has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide additional soldiers for campus and extracurricular activities,” the district said. “We are confident that the safety of staff and students will not be affected during this transition.”

The district cited unspecified “recent developments” that “reveal other concerns about the department’s operations.”

A parent who protested in front of the district building for days demanding action from the district told CNN Friday night that he was ecstatic about the decision.

CNN reported Wednesday that newly hired Uwald School official Crimson Elizondo was one of the state troopers under investigation for his actions in response to the Robb Elementary School massacre in May.

Following the CNN report, the school district issued a statement Thursday announcing Elizondo was fired.

Following the CNN report, the school district superintendent told staff he planned to retire.

Principal Harrell told district staff that Monday’s school board meeting will include a closed session to “discuss the principal’s retirement options and transition,” according to an email obtained by CNN.

Brett Cross, who is the legal guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday night that the decision to suspend campus officials was “our first victory, you know, and I’m delighted with that. Crazy.”

Cross said he was not alone in the protests in front of the school district headquarters, as people often come to show their support.

They just want transparency and accountability from officials, he said.

“I’m not asking too much. We just want to see action,” Cross said, adding that he wanted a report on the details of what happened that day. “I want it to be discovered, I want it to be published, because we deserve it. Our kids deserve it.”

After the announcement, Cross ended his protest on Twitter: “We did it! We’re going home!”

Elizondo was the first of 91 DPS officers to arrive at the school that day. She was one of 376 law enforcement officers as the gunman was left for 77 minutes with dead, dying and wounded victims before he was stopped. The response to the attack has been denounced as a “fiasco” and accusations have spread widely.

The school police chief has been fired and seven DPS officers are now under investigation. CNN exclusively reported that Elizondo was one of the officers under investigation. A source close to the investigation also confirmed this to CNN.

So far, the only person out of a job due to the shooting is school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired by the school board in August. Arredondo became a figurehead for the failed response, although he said he did not consider himself the incident commander and called for work to be resumed.

Sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that Elizondo is one of seven officers the DPS is investigating for his actions, but neither their names nor their actions during the response have been made public.

Elizondo was not properly equipped and told investigators she felt uncomfortable entering the school without it, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

She no longer works for DPS. During the summer, Elizondo was hired as an officer in the Uvalde Integrated Independent School District, and her responsibilities included protecting some of the children who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Elizondo declined to speak to CNN in person, by phone or by direct message.

Footage from police body cameras and other officers seen by CNN showed Elizondo arriving on the outskirts of the school as one of the first officers to respond. She got out of her official vehicle but did not retrieve any tactical body armor or her long rifle because officers were trained. Elizondo briefly walked into the building, but spent most of his time standing outside.

The school district said it hoped to recruit 10 more officers after the attack. It did not specifically announce the hiring of Elizondo over the summer, although the names and photos of her and four other police officers, a lieutenant and a security guard are on its website under the headline “Keeping UCISD Safe.”

At least 33 DPS officers will also be deployed around the district’s eight schools, Harrell said at a special town hall meeting in August.

After residents feared that police who failed to stop the killings would be in charge of school security, Cross told CNN he had been assured that the deployed DPS officers would not respond to the shooting.

“Our children were taken. We will not stop fighting until we have answers, and ensuring the safety of children in our community is our top priority,” said a statement from the district’s student family representative.

The Texas DPS conducted an internal review of its employees responding to school shootings last month.

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