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Uvalde police chief abruptly announces resignation days after report cleared officers in massacre at Robb Elementary School

Less than a week after the Uvalde City Council received an investigative report clearing local police officers of wrongdoing in the 2022 Robb Elementary School massacre, the Texas city’s police chief abruptly announced Tuesday he is quitting.

The resignation came hours before the council declined to comment on the investigative report during a regularly scheduled public meeting Tuesday night, saying it needed more time to assess the report’s findings.

Chief Daniel Rodriguez was on vacation and was not in Uvalde on May 24, 2022, when a teenage gunman was left unchallenged in the school for 77 minutes, but had assigned Lt. Mariano Pargas to be acting chief that day. Nineteen children and two teachers died.

Pargas was at the school within minutes but failed to take on a command role or act to save children trapped with the shooter, even when he was told of a child calling from the classroom to say students were still alive and needed help. Pargas resigned from the Uvalde Police Department in November 2022.

Rodriguez returned to Uvalde and remained head of the force. He has stood by his officers who responded to the school and has not taken disciplinary action against them, even as families have persisted in demanding he fire those who waited in the hallway.

In a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday, Rodriguez said “it is time for me to embrace a new chapter in my career.” His resignation is effective April 6.

Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez - City of Uvalde
Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez - City of Uvalde

The announcement comes less than a week after an independent investigator hired by the city reported his findings at a packed city council meeting Thursday, and said all the officers who responded to the school from the Uvalde Police Department acted in good faith and should be exonerated – sparking the fury of many victims’ parents and community members who have said for nearly two years that some should not be absolved.

The findings came after reports from the US Department of Justice and the Texas House of Representatives said there were multiple failures with the law enforcement response.

Decisions on whether state criminal charges will be filed have yet to be made. Local District Attorney Christina Mitchell has begun presenting evidence to a special grand jury, but there is no public timeline for when she may announce whether charges for any of the first responders who waited in the hallway will be filed.

City councilmembers refuse to address report

The investigative report on the local police actions was commissioned in July 2022 by the Uvalde City Council, which had vowed to investigate the actions of every city police officer who responded to the shooting. City leaders appointed Jesse Prado, a retired Austin police detective, to lead that probe. Don McLaughlin, who was mayor when the shooting happened and when the report was commissioned, told CNN it was supposed to help identify mistakes that were made – though the report itself notes it was prepared “in anticipation of litigation.”

Prado’s findings enraged victims’ families, who took turns during Thursday’s meeting questioning the investigation’s motives, rejected the conclusion that local officers acted properly, and demanded the termination of those involved.

“You said that they did it in good faith. You call that good faith?” Veronica Mata, whose 10-year-old daughter Tess was killed, said Thursday. “They stood there 77 minutes and waited after they got call after call that kids were still alive in there.”

Councilmembers Hector Luevano and Ernest W. “Chip” King III also said last week they were disappointed in the findings.

CNN questioned Prado about his findings after Thursday’s meeting, but he declined to provide any answers.

Councilmembers initially were expected to address the report during Tuesday’s city council meeting. But they declined to comment on it publicly during the meeting, telling people who attended that the members needed more time to assess its findings.

Mayor Cody Smith, left, speaks during an Uvalde City Council meeting on March 12. - CNN
Mayor Cody Smith, left, speaks during an Uvalde City Council meeting on March 12. - CNN

“We have to have some more time. I know y’all are sick of it. Y’all are sick of getting the can kicked down the road,” Mayor Cody Smith said in Tuesday’s meeting. “And I feel you, I do. But we have to have some more time … to determine what, if any, actions we can take.”

“I told y’all in there how much I care,” the mayor later said during a heated exchange Tuesday with Brett Cross, a relative of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in the shooting. “I can’t replace your babies, I can’t imagine the pain of losing your babies. … I can’t even imagine the thought.”

Smith also said Prado had agreed to come back and speak with parents, but the mayor did not offer more details.

“It’s been two years,” Cross said. “I’m done asking. I’m done begging. I’m done pleading. Enough is enough.”

Gloria Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed, called Tuesday for the termination of the officers exonerated in last week’s report.

“I know there’s a possibility that my daughter Jackie would be here today if those officers had done what was right,” she said at the meeting. “Now it’s up to you to do what is right.”

Report ‘ripped the wound wide open again,’ former Uvalde mayor says

McLaughlin, the mayor when the report was commissioned, also rejected the report’s findings, saying the examination did not answer the community’s questions and only left families more devastated.

“I don’t think it gave anybody any answers,” McLaughlin told CNN this week. “We’re no better off than when we started.”

Former Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin is interviewed by CNN on Monday. - CNN
Former Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin is interviewed by CNN on Monday. - CNN

Worse, the controversial report may have set the community back, he said.

“It ripped the wound wide open again. Instead of a tear, it’s gushed wide open now.”

McLaughlin said his intention and that of his former colleagues on the city council in commissioning the report was to find out what happened on the day of the shooting.

“We weren’t getting transparency,” he said. “The (Texas Department of Public Safety) changed the story five different times in the first four days and then we’re not getting any information from anybody, as the city, as we’re trying to go forward.

“We wanted an outside investigator so we know what our officers did and so we could see what mistakes were made. There’s no question that mistakes were made that day.”

McLaughlin, who stepped down as mayor last November to run for a seat in the Texas House, said every officer with a leadership position contributed to the failed response and that all the agencies – local, state and federal – should come together to identify the mistakes.

“I’ve said from Day One, we’re all big boys, we need to lay our cards on the table and take our lumps. Everybody.”

But instead of transparency, some records still have not been released, 22 months after the killings. Some of that is because Mitchell, the local district attorney, wanted no one to put out or discuss matters until she had completed her own inquiry.

“There’s no question in my mind: Leadership failed,” McLaughlin said. “I do believe that if those officers had been told to go in, they would have gone in. I also think they were put on hold early on … and nobody ever counteracted that order.”

The title page of the report by Prado says it was “prepared in anticipation of litigation and/or for use in trial.”

McLaughlin told CNN it was never intended as any kind of shield.

“The whole point of using this report was not to insulate me from a lawsuit or the city from a lawsuit or anybody else. It was just so we’d know what our officers did and so we’d be able to look you in the eye as the parents and the citizens of our community and say, ‘This is what we did that day.’”

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