Abbott Upset, DPS Probes 91 Officers
and House Ties Response to Migrants
July 18, 2022
Governor Greg Abbott characterized a Texas House report on a Uvalde mass shooting as "beyond disturbing" on Monday as the Department of Public Safety launched an investigation belatedly into the collective failure by 91 state police officers on the scene at Robb Elementary during the attack.
Abbott said the special House panel probe raised "serious concerns" on the response in Uvalde - and he vowed to push to strengthen school safety and mental health services when Texas legislators return to Austin - presumably in 2023 barring an emergency session before then.
The Republican governor took a tougher stance after a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018 when he proposed a package of modest gun restriction measures including a red-flag designed to keep weapons from people who are known to be dangerous or mentally ill. But Abbott quickly retreated amid an uproar from conservatives and opposition from the National Rifle Association, a group that inspires reverence and fear among Texas Republicans.
The Legislature decided that the state's gun laws were too restrictive in 2021 when the GOP majority voted in lockstep to deregulate guns in Texas with a constitutional carry measure. The Republicans fended off attempts to raise the legal age to carry to 21 - however - making it possible for the killer in Uvalde to legally purchase the AK-15 assault rifle that he used to murder 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary on May 24.
The internal DPS probe will run simultaneously with an investigation that Abbott ordered the Texas Rangers to conduct on the day after a teenager used an assault rifle that he'd purchased legally to murder 19 children and two teachers in the same classroom where he'd been bullied as a child based on a biographical sketch in the 77-page House analysis.
The DPS has refused to release information on the external investigation but plans to use its findings up to now for the more narrow inquiry into the actions of its individual officers at the school where 376 trained law enforcement personnel had gathered before a U.S. Border Patrol unit confronted and killed the teenage gunman. The separate but related probe will focus on whether any of its officers at the scene in Uvalde violated state law or department policy.
The House analysis of the law enforcement breakdown at the school gives conservatives an opportunity to blame President Joe Biden for the failed response by venturing into the realm of psychology with theories on a surge in migrant bailouts from trafficking vehicles creating complacency about the urgency of an attack.
"The frequency of these “bailout”-related alarms—around 50 of them between February and May of 2022—contributed to a diminished sense of vigilance about responding to security alerts," the House panel wrote in the interim study that it delivered on Sunday to families who lost members in the attack.
The committee explained that bailouts involve situations when migrants abandon vehicles that traffickers used to smuggle them into Texas from Mexico - sometimes as a result of crashes or high-speed chases by police. The panel cited an article in April in the conservative publication National Review, which includes quotes from Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin on the threats of immigration on small-town security in his part of the state.
The report said that "numerous witnesses" testified that the number of bailout alerts had risen sharply in the past 18 months - with a major jump since February with the Uvalde school being placed on security status or forced to lock down 47 times during that span of time.
more to come ...