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Other View: Uvalde parents put their faith in a school police commander who lost his nerve

OPED-TEXAS-SCHOOL-SHOOTING-EDITORIAL-GET
Police officers stand together at a memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults killed on May 24th during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 31, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images/TNS
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A CNN reporter correctly confronted the Uvalde, Texas, school district chief of police on Wednesday, refusing to take no for an answer when Chief Pedro Arredondo repeatedly tried to sidestep the reporter and avoid answering crucial questions about last week’s school massacre. Arredondo escaped through a door, after which the school district announced that it would arrest any reporter found on school district property.

These aren’t the actions of administrators and officers interested in an honest assessment of what went wrong in a school shooting that left 19 children and two educators dead. These are the actions of officials doing their best to evade accountability for the apparent hand-wringing cowardice of a commander who restrained law enforcers from taking action to save precious lives.

The threat to arrest reporters applies not just to Robb Elementary, the scene of the massacre, but any school district property where reporters wait to speak with officials. A video posted on Twitter Wednesday showed four school district officers informing reporters that they were regarded as trespassers and subject to arrest.

The pathetic story of Arredondo’s inaction, which may have cost the lives of wounded children, seems to get more pathetic by the day. At first, Uvalde law enforcers looked like heroes when stories circulated of alleged heroism in the first minutes of the school attack. But on closer inspection, it became clear that Arredondo behaved like a bumbling, indecisive coward.

U.S. Border Patrol officers, a police SWAT team and others waited anxiously for the order to go in as the shooter continued his rampage. Parents pleaded with officers to stop standing around and take action. One mother broke through a cordon to rescue her child. They handcuffed her. In the shooter’s presence, children were texting their parents, pleading for help.

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But for 80 minutes, Arredondo — the incident commander in charge — held back. Some parents have good reason to believe that their wounded children might have bled out during that waiting period. It’s unclear whether additional victims were shot while Arredondo was holding back. Uvalde’s mayor, expressing outrage, asked the Justice Department to investigate.

CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz confronted Arredondo directly at his office — not on school grounds — to ask why Texas Department of Public Safety officials are saying Arredondo wasn’t cooperating with their investigation. Arredondo claimed his office was in contact with them, then fell back on the excuse that families are burying their loved ones and, “out of respect,” he would wait for them to finish grieving before answering questions.

Those families will never stop grieving. They deserve answers. It’s too bad that they, like the families whose children were slaughtered in the 2019 Parkland, Florida, school massacre, had to put their trust in a law enforcer who seemed to have lost his nerve when the ability to summon courage might have saved lives.

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