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Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw testifies before grand jury investigating Uvalde school shooting

By Pooja Salhotra, The Texas Tribune

Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw testifies before grand jury investigating Uvalde school shooting” 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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Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified on Wednesday before a Uvalde grand jury considering whether to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers who failed to appropriately respond to the Robb Elementary School shooting, KSAT reported on Wednesday.

The grand jury was convened in January, nearly two years after the May 24, 2022 attack that killed 19 students and two teachers and injured 17 others. Nearly 400 law enforcement officers responded to the shooting, mainly from state and federal agencies. Officers waited more than an hour to breach a classroom, where a gunman used an AR-15 rifle to shoot students.

The Austin American-Statesman first reported that McCraw traveled to Austin on Wednesday to testify before the grand jury in Uvalde. ABC News captured photos of McCraw arriving in Uvalde in an airplane Wednesday morning and leaving a few hours later.

Multiple investigations, including a scathing Department of Justice report, have condemned police for failing to follow protocol. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that if responding officers had followed general procedures, lives would have been saved.

Because grand jury proceedings in Texas are secret, McCraw’s testimony cannot be heard by the public. Twelve grand jurors listening to the evidence presented by the Uvalde County district attorney’s office will determine whether to formally charge someone with a crime.

The Uvalde County DA’s office has not said which officers, if any, who responded the day of the shooting will face criminal charges. Legal experts say officers could face charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and abandoning or endangering a child.

McCraw has previously blamed the bungled police response on local officers, including former Uvalde Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was the designated incident commander according to the school district’s active-shooter plan. In 2022, McCraw testified before the Texas Senate that it was not feasible for his troopers to assume command, even though it became apparent that Arredondo was not taking swift action.

A few months later, McCraw said he would resign if his troopers had “any culpability” in the Robb Elementary School response. Then, in December 2022, McCraw reversed himself, saying during a DPS meeting he would not resign, despite increasing pressure from victims’ families who asked for him to do so.

“If DPS as an institution failed the families, failed the school or failed the community of Uvalde — then absolutely, I need to go,” McCraw said at the time. “But I can tell you this right now, DPS as an institution right now did not fail the community.”

Of the nearly 400 officers who responded to the shooting, 91 were from DPS. A group of U.S. Border Patrol agents and local officers ultimately breached the classroom and killed the shooter.

As a state agency, DPS has faced increasing scrutiny for failing to make public their own criminal investigation into the shooting, conducted by the Texas Rangers. The report has been released to Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell, who asked that it not be released more widely, according to a DPS spokesperson. More than a dozen news organizations have sued the DPS accusing it of unlawfully withholding public records.

DPS itself investigated the conduct of seven troopers who responded to the shooting. After completing its review, the agency fired DPS Sgt. Juan Maldonado, who was on the scene within four minutes, body camera footage shows. A second DPS officer, Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell, was terminated last January. He remains on paid leave while his appeal is pending. A third officer, Trooper Crimson Elizondo, resigned before the investigation concluded. The remaining four officers were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.

The Austin American-Statesman reported last week that officers from multiple agencies had been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

Mitchell began her investigation shortly after the shooting and initially said it would be completed by the end of November 2022. At that time, Mitchell said she could not determine whether charges should be filed because she had not yet received a completed investigation from the DPS’ Texas Rangers division. Mitchell received a preliminary report from the Rangers last January but later said the prosecution timeline would have to be pushed back.

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