Robb Elementary School: Site of Uvalde shooting to be demolished, says mayor

‘You can never ask a child to go back or teacher to go back in that school, ever,’ says Uvalde mayor

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar,Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 22 June 2022 14:19
Matthew McConaughey visits Uvalde

Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting, will be demolished, Mayor Don McLaughlin announced on Tuesday night.

In a city council meeting, the mayor said that he spoke with Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Hal Harrell and said it was his “understanding” that the building will be pulled down.

“You can never ask a child to go back or teacher to go back in that school ever,” Mr McLaughlin said, without providing a timeline for the demolition.

Mr Harrell said that Robb Elementary would be turned into “something other than a school site”, while the school will be transferred to a new address, according to Business Insider.

The elementary school reportedly has nearly 600 students in the second, third and fourth grades.

Earlier this month, officials announced that students and staff would not be returning to the school following the massacre that left 21 dead and another 17 wounded.

With the community grieving and many questions still unanswered, the superintendent had announced that officials were “working through plans on how to serve students on other campuses and will provide that information as soon as it is finalised”.

At the city council meeting, the mayor also voiced his frustration over the lack of information shared about the day of the massacre and accused Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) Director Steve McCraw of deflecting the blame away from his own officers.

Mr McCraw is leading an investigation into the bungled police response to the mass shooting and gave damning testimony during a Texas Senate hearing earlier on Tuesday.

The TDPS director said that the law enforcement response to the shooting was “an abject failure” where the on-site commander – Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo – put the lives of officers over those of the children trapped inside a classroom with the gunman.

Mr McLaughlin slammed Mr McCraw over his comments, pointing out that several DPS officers were also on the scene that day and that he was trying to direct attention away from his department.

Photos of the doors in the schools were shown in the Texas Senate

“Colonel McCraw has continued to – whether you want to call it – lie, leak, mislead or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and Rangers from the response,” said the mayor.

“Every briefing he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers that were on-scene that day.”

He accused Mr McCraw of having “an agenda” which is “not to present a full report on what happened and to give factual answers to the families of this community”.

He added: “The gloves are off. As we know it, we will share it. We are not going to hold back anymore.”

The mayor said that he had requested bodycam footage from the day but had so far not received any.

Mr McCraw testified on Tuesday that the state does plan to release it to the public.

The infighting between officials comes as outrage has been building in the community with what has been perceived as stonewalling by officials.

The account of the day’s events has varied drastically since the massacre and the Uvalde city and police department are fighting public records requests made by several media organisations for the likes of 911 calls and bodycam footage.

In the Texas Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mr McCraw levelled the blame at Chief Arredondo.

“There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the past two decades since Columbine,” he said.

“Three minutes after the subject entered the west hallway, there was sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armour, to isolate distract and neutralise the subject,” he said.

A mourner stops to pay his respects at a memorial at Robb Elementary School

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.

“The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had body armour. The children had none.

“The officers had training. The subject had none.”

On 24 May, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother in the face then drove to the elementary school, where he went on a shooting spree with his legally-bought assault rifle.

He was killed by Border Patrol agents, but not before responding police ignored the cries of desperate parents asking them to enter the school and multiple victims placed desperate 911 calls from inside the room.

In total, law enforcement officers waited 77 minutes from the time the shooting started inside the school at 11.33am before a Border Patrol tactical unit stormed the classroom and shot gunman Salvador Ramos dead at 12.50pm.

Mr McCraw said that armed officers with rifles and bulletproof vests arrived outside the classroom three minutes into the massacre and could have brought the incident to an end then.

Instead, Chief Arredondo waited for radios, firearms and keys rather than send officers into the two adjoining classrooms where dying students and teachers were waiting to be saved, he testified.

Part of the delay was put down to the chief trying to get keys to the classroom door – when Mr McCraw testified that the door was likely unlocked and no officers tried to open it.

On Tuesday, the Uvalde City Council also voted unanimously to deny a leave of absence for Chief Arredondo as a council member.

Denying him a leave of absence reportedly leads to the path of his potential departure as a council member if he misses a third consecutive meeting.

Parents of the victims along with community members also urged him to resign.

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