(UVALDE, Texas) — Family members of Uvalde school district students have called on the city council to suspend all city police officers who were on the scene during the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School.
During a council meeting Tuesday night, victims’ families and community members said they wanted all officers who responded that day to be held responsible for the bungled police response that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Brett Cross, father of Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in the massacre, pointed to a police officer in the audience, saying he was a responding officer to Robb.
“That ain’t right… until the investigation is done, they should be on administrative leave,” he said.
Diana Olvedo-Karau echoed the sentiment, asking for “administrative leave, at a minimum” and suggested putting the officers on desk duty as an alternative until the investigation concludes.
“I don’t think that’s a lot to ask,” she said.
Already, the lieutenant who was acting chief during the massacre, Lt. Mariano Pargas, has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the police department’s response. A special state investigation found that the police response was delayed 77 minutes and plagued with failures.
The school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, has been suspended without pay while the school district proceeds with plans to terminate him.
Each responding police officer from the city’s force would be individually interviewed as part of a review, council members said. The city force has 39 officers; 24 or 25 of them responded to the emergency calls at Robb Elementary School.
Council members also spent a considerable amount of time criticizing the school board for promising Arredondo’s termination before he was given “due process.” Council members explained that their investigation would be slower and more methodical in order to avoid mistakes. They also reminded the crowd that city officials had already suspended Pargas, who was acting chief on May 24 because the department’s chief was on vacation.
During the session, council members also passed a resolution urging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas state Legislature to hold a special legislative session to consider raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic assault-style rifles from 18 to 21. The gunman at Robb elementary had just turned 18.
The vote on the resolution follows repeated calls from other city and state officials to hold a special session on gun control in the wake of the Robb Elementary School massacre.
On Monday, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District unanimously passed a resolution urging Abbott to hold a special session to raise the minimum age to legally own an assault weapon from 18 to 21. The Uvalde County commissioners passed a similar resolution earlier this month.
More than a dozen Texas mayors last month called on state leaders to “take immediate action to prevent the next mass shooting in Texas,” including raising the age to purchase assault weapons in the state to 21.
Texas Senate Democrats have also called on Abbott to hold a special session this summer to enact gun control measures like raising the age to legally own an assault weapon to 21.
The Texas House of Representatives’ committee report on the shooting, released last week, revealed the accused school shooter showed many warning signs prior to the school shooting but was still able to legally purchase the assault rifle used to kill 19 students and two teachers.
In Texas, where there are few restrictions on purchasing firearms, individuals who are 18 years or older are legally permitted to purchase long guns, which include shotguns and rifles.
The Texas Legislature is scheduled to reconvene for its next session in January. Abbott is the only person with the authority to call lawmakers back for a special session before then.
In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a gun reform bill banning anyone under the age of 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle after an 18-year-old allegedly used one to kill 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo.
After a then-19-year-old used an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 students and faculty members in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state quickly raised the age for buying any firearm, including long guns, from 18 to 21.
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