Texas

State police fire another officer for responding to mass shooting in Uvalda

UWALDE, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) – The Texas Department of Public Safety has decided to fire a Texas Ranger who responded to the horrific May 24 attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalda.

In a letter Thursday, DPS Director Steve McCraw told Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell that his handling of the shooting, which killed 19 students and two teachers, “was not up to department standards.” Kindell has five days to appeal the decision.

“You should have recognized that the incident was and is an active shooter situation that required an active shooter response, not a barricaded subject situation,” McCraw wrote in a letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.

After receiving the comment on Friday, Kindell said only that he intends to appeal his dismissal.

Kindell’s September suspension caused ripple effects in the criminal justice system in South and West Texas, where he was the lead investigator on 50 high-profile investigations including murder, sexual assault and public corruption.

But police experts and the Uvalde County District Attorney raised questions about whether the DPS is retroactively penalizing several officers for failing to follow rules that were not in place at the time of the shooting. Among their fears is that by firing a few officers, DPS and other law enforcement agencies will avoid a serious analysis of how hundreds of police officers from various departments stood by for more than 70 minutes while children and teachers lay shot to death in a fourth grade classroom.

In response to an inquiry under the Texas Public Information Act, the DPS stated that it did not have a written policy on active shooters. Instead, the agency said at the time of the Uvalde shooting that the DPS relied on the leadership of the Law Enforcement Rapid Response Center at Texas State University. Known as the ALERRT Doctrine, it is considered the state’s premier active shooter training program.

In July, McCraw sent a memo to the agency informing DPS officers that the agency would “continue to adhere to the ALERRT doctrine, but with one important addition.”

“DPS officers responding to the school shooting will be empowered to overcome any delay in neutralizing the attacker,” McCraw wrote. “When a subject fires a weapon at a school, he remains an active shooter until neutralized and must not be treated as a ‘barricaded subject.’ We will provide proper training and guidance on recognizing and overcoming poor team decisions in active shooting situations.”

McCraw and DPS spokesman Travis Considine did not comment on the situation on Friday.

In October, McCraw decided to fire Juan Maldonado, a DPS sergeant who also responded to Robb’s call to elementary school on May 24. Maldonado chose to resign rather than appeal his dismissal.

Jesse Rizo, the uncle of 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, one of the students killed at Robb Elementary School, criticized McCraw for not holding officers accountable for so long. Rizo said on Friday that Kindell’s firing “sends a strong message.”

Kindell was responsible for investigating major crimes in the counties of Uvalde and Real. In rural areas with small police departments, the Texas Rangers act as lead detectives on almost every high-profile case. Following his suspension in September, Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell dismissed the charges against the two accused of sexual harassment that Kindell was investigating and agreed to a six-year plea agreement with a death row accused of murdering minors.

“I’m concerned,” Mitchell said in an interview last month. “I have several other cases that, if his situation is not resolved soon, may be closed.”

In his letter, McCraw told Kindell that “as a Texas Ranger, you must overcome conflicting information and accurately assess the tactical situation.”

Kindell was one of 91 traffic police officers who arrived on the scene. Also on the scene were 149 U.S. Border Patrol officers, 25 Uvalde police officers, and 16 sheriff’s deputies.

“You took no steps to influence law enforcement response to the position of an active shooter,” McCraw continued. “It represents a failure to do one’s duty properly.”

Copyright 2023 TEXAS TRIBUNE. All rights reserved.

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