Forrest Wilder of the Texas Monthly has been trying to sort out the conflicting accounts of what happened at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. He learned that everyone in a position of authority has gone silent. Governor Greg Abbott initiated the government response by praising the courage of law enforcement; when he learned that the shooter was left alone in the classrooms for more than an hour, he said he was “livid” about being misinformed.

One authority after another offered accounts and pointed the finger of blame for the slaughter of children and teachers. The State Senate promised a thorough investigation but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick pointedly left the Uvalde representative off the committee.

Now everyone has clammed up. Answers are not likely to be forthcoming until after the Governor’s race in November. A strategically timed response. Family members want to know what happened to their loved ones. They are not likely to get answers until Greg Abbott is safely re-elected.

Wilder writes:

More than three weeks have passed since the terrible events in Uvalde. What was once a torrent of appalling facts about the police response—many of them misleading or false—has now slowed to a trickle of leaks and lawyer-mediated, self-serving narratives. Governor Greg Abbott has pivoted to talking about the border again. Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw, last seen slipping into a closed-door meeting of a state House investigative committee, has gone quiet. The Uvalde schools chief of police, Pete Arredondo, finally emerged from hiding last week, lawyer at hand, to contradict reports that he had made the call to wait around for more than an hour while the gunman lingered in the classrooms with dead and dying children and teachers; hours later, key parts of his story were contradicted by evidence reported in the New York Times.

For anyone expecting an apology, accountability, or even a clear and concise narrative of what happened at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, well, you may be waiting a while longer—perhaps forever. No one has resigned, no one has been fired, and local and state authorities from the Uvalde CISD superintendent up to the governor have stopped providing updates. Local and state agencies are refusing most requests to release information they are supposed to make available under Texas’s open records law, even to the state senator who represents Uvalde. Off-duty police from around the state, as well as mysterious motorcycle clubs whose members reportedly include former police officers, descended on Uvalde to physically block reporters from talking to families and community members, even after those locals had agreed to talk—a blockade so unusual and aggressive that one veteran Texas journalist has called it “bordering on official oppression.” It’s as if those in power concluded that the answer to communicating poorly was to stop communicating altogether, and to obstruct anyone seeking answers.

Perhaps all will be revealed soon. Perhaps ongoing investigations by the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Department of Justice will bring clarity. Perhaps the Texas House committee, which is taking testimony in private, will emerge with a full report. Perhaps someone will take responsibility. But right now, it seems that authorities are biding their time, waiting for public attention to move on to the next outrage, and hoping to insulate themselves from accountability. “People in Uvalde are angry,” said state senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents the small city. “They want answers. They’re distrusting of law enforcement. The credibility of law enforcement is at stake,” he said. “They’re good people, but they just want honesty, man.”

The inflection point—the shift from a public reckoning to a studied silence—came on May 27, just three days after the nineteen kids and two teachers were killed. That morning McCraw gave a press conference in which he announced to a stunned world that police had committed a grave “mistake.” They had not, as Abbott and McCraw had stated in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, engaged the gunman at the earliest possible moment. Instead, the DPS director said, law enforcement had waited more than an hour before breaching the classroom and killing the shooter.

At the outset of the press conference, McCraw said his only goal that day was to “report facts” and not to “criticize what was done or the actions taken.” But faced with a barrage of pointed questions from the media, McCraw did point a finger—at Arredondo. Without using his name, McCraw said Arredondo, as incident commander that day, was responsible for the dilatory response. It was his decision—a “wrong decision, period”—to treat the gunman as a “barricaded subject” rather than an “active shooter.” It was Arredondo alone who had held back all the gathered law enforcement—Uvalde city police, the county sheriff’s deputies, Border Patrol officers, and DPS state police.

Later that day, Abbott held his own press conference. The governor, not known for his emotional range, seemed eager to convey outrage. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, he had praised law enforcement for their “amazing courage” and averred that without their actions, “it could have been worse”—the “it” referring to the 21 deaths. Abbott wanted everyone to know that he had been wronged. “I was misled. I am livid about what happened,” he said. What happened, he explained, was that in the aftermath of the shooting “law enforcement officials and non–law enforcement officials” had debriefed him on the shooting. Abbott had taken notes by hand, writing everything down “in detail” and “in sequential order.” The information he then provided the public was a “recitation” of those facts.

Who had given him such bad information? What consequences would they face? If the governor was so angry, surely heads would roll. But Abbott offered no names, no accountability. In an unusually quick turnaround after an open records request, the governor’s office released his notes this week to a Houston television station. But the nine pages of scrawl confirmed only that Abbott had been misled, not who had done the misleading.

At the May 27 press conference, Abbott signaled that he was moving on. He admonished law enforcement leaders to “get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty” as part of their investigations. Ever since, Abbott, McCraw, and other officials have stopped answering questions or publicly sharing information, pointing to the ongoing investigations. It’s an all-purpose excuse. Republicans in the Legislature are using the investigations as a reason to avoid calling for a special session on gun violence prevention. They’re also conveniently postponing, perhaps forever, a discussion about gun safety; as one state senator put it, “bad facts make bad law.”

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