By Uriel J. García, The Texas Tribune
“Uvalde schools hire — and then fire — former DPS trooper under investigation for shooting response” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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UVALDE — Uvalde school officials have fired a recently hired district police officer after it became public that she was one of the first state troopers to arrive at Robb Elementary on May 24, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.
Crimson Elizondo is among at least five current or former Department of Public Safety officers the agency is investigating for their response to the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, CNN reported Wednesday.
Elizondo, who responded to the shooting within minutes when she was a state trooper, was hired by the school district’s police department after leaving her DPS job. Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday told reporters during a campaign stop in New Braunfels that the school district asked DPS about Elizondo. Abbott said the agency told the school district that “she had actions inconsistent with training and department requirements.”
“So that school district had full information about the person they chose to go ahead and hire, and that’s up to the school district — not DPS, not anybody else — to have to own up to the poor decision they made,” Abbott said.
Law enforcement officers from local and state agencies have been heavily criticized for waiting more than an hour to confront the Robb Elementary gunman, a response that disregarded common active shooting training. A Texas House committee investigation faulted the law enforcement response, finding that the hundreds of officers responded in a chaotic, uncoordinated manner. They were devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency, a report from the committee said.
It was unclear Thursday whether Elizondo was one of two DPS officers suspended with pay while the agency investigates them. DPS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In on-body camera footage on the day of the shooting, Elizondo responded to another officer who asked her if she had any children at the school: “If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that.”
District spokesperson Anne Marie Espinoza said in a statement Thursday that, “the audio is not consistent with the district’s expectations” and Elizondo “has been terminated from her position.”
“We are deeply distressed by the information that was disclosed yesterday evening concerning one of our recently hired employees, Crimson Elizondo,” Espinoza said. “We sincerely apologize to the victim’s families and the greater Uvalde community for the pain that this revelation has caused.”
Former Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was one of the first officers on the scene and was the designated incident commander in the district’s active-shooter plan, has received much of the blame for the botched law enforcement response. The district suspended Arredondo on June 22 and fired him on Aug. 24. The district is also investigating the remaining district officers who responded to the shooting.
Since the massacre, parents and relatives of the 19 children and two teachers have demanded that every officer who responded be held accountable and fired.
On Sept. 27, Brett Cross, the legal guardian and uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in the massacre, began a protest outside of the school district administration building. As he camped outside for days, other parents joined him. Cross, and some of the other parents who have joined him in his vigil, said he wants the school district to suspend the school police officers without pay until it can determine if the officers were justified in waiting more than an hour to enter the classroom.
After CNN’s report, the parents escalated their demonstration by blocking the entrance doors of the school district’s administration building.
“Either they knew about it and they didn’t say anything because they didn’t care, or they were ignorant. And in that case, they shouldn’t be in the process of hiring people because they’re not doing their job correctly if they can’t do due diligence,” Cross said Thursday outside of the school administration building.
Jinitzail Hernández and Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/10/06/uvalde-school-police-investigation-shooting-response/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.