Analysis: The Uvalde school board has fired Chief Pete Arredondo. Accountability shouldn't end there.

Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw and Gov. Greg Abbott have also failed to lead following the tragic shooting.

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott approaches the memorial in front of Robb Elementary School earlier this as the gathered crowd boos. - Joseph Guillen
Joseph Guillen
Gov. Greg Abbott approaches the memorial in front of Robb Elementary School earlier this as the gathered crowd boos.
On Wednesday evening — three months after the botched law enforcement response to the state's deadliest school shooting — the Uvalde school board finally voted to fire district Police Chief Pete Arredondo for his part in the operation.

That unanimous, and overdue, decision came shortly after Arredondo's attorney released a 17-page statement calling the board's move an "illegal and unconstitutional public lynching" and demanding his client be reinstated with backpay.

It's a safe bet other officials involved in the response to the Robb Elementary School tragedy are wiping sweat off their brows right now and hitching a sigh of relief.

After all, it's a sad political reality that investigations often run out of steam after a high-profile figure takes the fall. Right now, that figure is Arredondo, who's been broadly criticized for his part in a police response in which 400 armed law enforcement officers took 77 minutes to take down the shooter.

To be clear, the district's decision was the right one, even if it came weeks late.

The district's active-shooter plan lists Arredondo as the commanding officer, and many testified during a House committee investigation that the chief's failure to step up led to the shambolic scene. Further, the chief reportedly didn't even have a radio as he entered the school and wasted valuable time trying to find a key to open the door to the classroom where the gunman holed up.

But the blame doesn't end with Arredondo.

If it was clear on the scene that the chief was unable to lead an effective response, why didn't someone else step in? After all, 91 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers eventually arrived at the school. Couldn't one of them have taken command or at least radioed higher-ups?

So far, we're not getting a good explanation because DPS Director Steven McCraw has demonstrated a complete disregard for transparency when it comes to the case and the law enforcement response.

McCraw testified before a Texas House committee a month after the shooting, where he correctly called law enforcement's response an "abject failure." However, the agency under his command has repeatedly fought efforts by the media and elected officials to obtain information showing why that failure occurred.

Indeed, in the days immediately after the shooting, McCraw was an active participant in state and local officials' confusing crossfire of contradictory claims. A week after the massacre, DPS stopped holding public briefings after some of the details McCraw shared turned out to be wrong.

McCraw's boss, Gov. Greg Abbott, also deserves blame for failing to heed public demands that he call a special session of the Texas Legislature to address school safety and mass shootings.

As time stretches on, it's become increasingly apparent that the Republican governor and his handlers are hoping to run down the clock on the tragedy before the November election. After all, calling the Lege back to Austin might signal to the diehard GOP base that he's soft on protecting gun rights.

In a series of tweets timed around Arredondo's firing, Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez — a San Antonio Democrat whose district includes Uvalde — called out other public servants who failed in their response to the Robb tragedy. He urged residents to keep pushing for accountability.

"Today was just the start for justice. Our work is not done," the senator said.

In his tweets, Gutierrez specifically called out Abbott for failing to call a special session and McCraw — an Abbott appointee — for DPS's lack of transparency. Gutierrez filed a lawsuit seeking to require the department to respond to his public information requests.

"Hold them all accountable," Gutierrez tweeted.

That sounds like solid advice. Not just for the people of Uvalde but also for Texas voters.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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