A group of parents and relatives of victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School, who spent 12 days outside district headquarters demanding action over officers’ response to the shooting, finally got the news they’ve been waiting for.
The district announced Friday that it is suspending “all operations of the Uvalde CISD Police Department for a period of time” and placing Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller on administrative leave. After that, Superintendent Hal Harrell announced his retirement.
Brett Cross, Uzia Garcia’s guardian, who has remained steadfast in his protest, sent one of his final tweets from his camp when the news broke.
“245 hours of updates!!! We did it! And we’re going home!” – he wrote. He told KSAT that he was going home for a long-awaited vacation.
Cross, his wife, Nikki, and several other parents and relatives of the victims protested district leaders, demanding that Harrell remove the officers who stood in the school hallway for 77 minutes while the gunman remained in the classrooms.
Harrell pushed back, saying they needed to wait for the results of the investigation.
The parents, including the Crosses, were seen packing up and hugging on Friday.
Berlinda Arreola, Amera Jo Garza’s grandmother, said Brett Cross and the band Lives Robbed brought about change.
“He (Brett Cross) needs to be at home, he needs to be with his family, he accepted it for the team,” Arreola said. “This is a great example of why we didn’t stop. It’s a great example of why we kept fighting.”
Javier Cazares, Jackie Cazares’ father, called it a “good victory” and a “step” toward justice.
“They tell us to move on … how can we move on when our children are gone?” he said.
Javier Cazares said they “will not stop” standing up for their children and survivors.
The May 24 shooting left 19 students and two teachers dead and sparked weeks of outrage aimed at UCISD, the Department of Public Safety and other first responders.
A group of relatives had been outside the area since Tuesday, September 27, camping out with tents, chairs and cots and playing videos of their children on the side of the building.
On Twitter, Brett Cross has repeatedly made it clear, “I’m not going anywhere.”
In one of his videos posted last week, Brett Cross said Mueller, the director of student services, “put his hand on me” as Mueller tried to enter the district building. The video showed Mueller trying to push Brett Cross aside at the entrance. Mueller decided to retire after being placed on administrative leave, according to UCISD.
Robbed Lives, a group that has protested the delayed response and called for tougher gun laws, celebrated Friday by retweeting the UCISD statement and media reports.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose jurisdiction includes Uvalde, praised the families for their determination.
“Thanks to the persistence of Brett Cross and all of the Uvalde families, a step toward accountability has been made today. UCISD suspended its officials. This cannot be the end; we still need full transparency and fairness from every agency and every level of government that let us down in Uvalde,” Gutierrez said.
UCISD said “recent events” led to Friday’s announcement.
Read the full statement below.
Records obtained by KSAT showed that Hernandez was aware that the newly hired officer, Crimson Elizondo, was under investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety for her response to the attack.
Elizondo, who was one of the first troopers on the scene, mostly stayed out of the building. She was seen on video cameras: “If my son was there, I would not be outside. I promise you that,” CNN reports.
In the summer, she left the DPS and was hired at a district school. UCISD fired her Thursday after reports of her employment surfaced.
Since then, parents have also called for DPS Director Steve McCraw to resign.
UCISD said the staff currently employed will “fill other roles within the district.”
DPS troopers will patrol campuses and extracurricular activities.
The county said it is still awaiting the results of an investigation by the Texas Association of Chiefs of Police and an outside group, JPPI Investigations.
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