Uvalde schoolchildren were massacred under a sheriff’s watch. He was still undefeated on Super Tuesday

Sheriff Ruben Nolasco won re-election despite pressure from victims’ families to step down and a Justice Department report finding ‘cascading’ failures among the law enforcement response that day

Alex Woodward
Wednesday 06 March 2024 17:10 GMT
Merrick Garland chokes up saying Uvalde victims 'deserved better' as DOJ report released

For nearly two years, a Texas county sheriff has refused to step down after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in 2022.

Instead, on Super Tuesday, Uvalde County sheriff Ruben Nolasco faced voters for the first time in the wake of the massacre.

And he won re-election with roughly 39 per cent of votes against three Republican challengers, according to preliminary results.

The sheriff has repeatedly rebuffed calls to resign or withdraw his candidacy for re-election despite overwhelming public pressure from victims’ families, demands that he face criminal charges, and a federal investigation that detailed a minute-by-minute timeline exposing “cascading” failures in the law enforcement response that day.

His name appears throughout the US Department of Justice report that determined he failed to create a command post or a unified command as hundreds officers waited an excruciating 77 minutes during the mass shooting before entering Robb Elementary School and taking down the18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle.

“I’m proud of the work my staff and I have done, but we’re not done yet,” Mr Nolasco said in a statement last month. “I have created a solid foundation that I will continue to build on. I ask for your vote and continued support in my re-election campaign to continue building a more efficient and modern office.”

Uvalde County Constable Emmanuel Zamora, whose name also appears throughout the Justice Department report, also won a Republican primary on Tuesday with roughly 64 per cent of the votes, according to preliminary results.

Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco hugs Governor Greg Abbott in 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

Victims’ families and the community at large have largely remained split about the direction of law enforcement officials and political leadership in the massacre’s aftermath. Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter was fatally shot inside her Robb Elementary classroom, lost her campaign for Uvalde’s mayor last year.

Texas state senator Roland Gutierrez, whose district encompasses Uvalde, lost a Democratic primary for a US Senate seat in Texas on Super Tuesday. (AP)

Last year, Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez – whose district encompasses Uvalde – introduced several gun safety bills, including a measure to raise the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles, all of which failed in a Republican-dominated state legislature.

He ran as the Democratic nominee to face Republican incumbent Ted Cruz for a US Senate seat on Tuesday. But Texas congressman Colin Allred ultimately won that Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Mr Gutierrez stood among families of Uvalde victims as he conceded the primary race on Tuesday night, telling supporters that they were the reason why he launched his campaign.

“I stopped crying about elections a long time ago. You won’t see crying over that spilled milk,” he said. “But I’ll forever cry about these children.”

Earlier this year, a special grand jury was convened to investigate the delayed law enforcement response to the shooting to determine whether criminal charges can be filed against officers. On Thursday, Uvalde officials will hear the results of a separate report from an Austin investigator reviewing the Uvalde Police Department’s response to the shooting.

“All I can say is I was not the incident commander that day,” Mr Nolasco told ABC News in November 2022. “Honestly, I mean, there’s just a lot of finger-pointing that’s going on right now ... I think they want to point fingers to me and point fingers at me.”

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