AUSTIN, Texas: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on July 14 again said he was initially misled about the police response to the Uvalde school massacre, calling newly leaked video of officers hesitating for more than an hour “shocking” and not what he had been told when he originally lauded officers for a swift and brave confrontation.
“None of the information in that video was shared with me on that day,” Abbott told reporters in Houston when asked about his reaction to the video published this week. “And so it was shocking.”
Multiple inaccurate and conflicting statements given by officials since the May 24 tragedy at Robb Elementary School have compounded the grief and anger over a gunman killing 19 children and two teachers. Seven weeks later, there remains an incomplete account of why heavily armed police officers waited so long to take action and who was in charge.
A nearly 80-minute school surveillance video published this week by the Austin American-Statesman put in full view the bewildering inaction by law enforcement as the massacre unfolded. Abbott said Thursday it was “disgusting to see what happened”.
A day after the attack, Abbott had commended police, saying at the time that officers “showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire” and that it was “a fact that because of their quick response” lives were saved. Two days later, Abbott said he had been misled during an initial briefing and was “livid”.
Abbott has not said who provided the misinformation. Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman, said in an email Thursday that it came from a briefing in which “different accounts were spun” by a room of law enforcement and public officials. His office has not provided names.
At a Uvalde City Council meeting in June, Mayor Don McLaughlin said the briefing that preceded Abbott’s inaccurate remarks was given by Victor Escalon, a regional commander with the Texas Department of Public Safety. McLaughlin has been increasingly critical of state police since the shooting, accusing DPS leaders of minimising the involvement of their own troopers and deflecting blame on local officers.
The department’s officials do not dispute that Escalon led the briefing but said it was based on information provided by local law enforcement. Agency spokesman Travis Considine said those in the room included McLaughlin, Uvalde School District police Chief Pete Arredondo and officials from Uvalde police, the local sheriff’s department and the Border Patrol. All “were present at the briefing and had the opportunity to clarify anything they deemed inaccurate”, Considine said in an email Thursday.
Considine said it was not until Texas Rangers, a division of the Department of Public Safety, began their investigation that discrepancies emerged.
An investigative committee led by Texas lawmakers is expected to release findings Sunday about the slow law enforcement response after interviewing more than 40 witnesses over the past several weeks. The US Justice Department and Texas Rangers also have launched separate investigations that are ongoing.
“The families of the victims deserve to know what happened. And they will know what happened,” Abbott said. – AP