NPR’s Steve Inskeep speaks with Lomi Kriel of the ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative unit about state police blaming local law enforcement for the school shooting that took place. killed 21 people.
TO MARTINEZ, HOST:
After a gunman entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 19 children and two teachers, investigators focused on the long delay for law enforcement to intervene. The school’s police chief was fired and the town’s acting police chief was suspended. But a new investigative report finds state troopers actually outnumbered local responders 2-to-1. And the Civil Service Department, which had dozens of its officers on the scene, controlled the flow information to deflect responsibility for what had happened. Steve Inskeep interviewed reporter Lomi Kriel of ProPublica-Texas Tribune’s investigative unit about the report.
LOMI KRIEL: What our story was about was really the role of the state police, the Department of Public Safety. We know they had 91 officers on the scene, many of whom, and in particular at least one, were there within 4 minutes of the shooting. Several high-level officers were there soon after. Nobody really discussed the role that the Ministry of Public Security played in Uvalde. And then our reporting showed that, you know, how early they were there and what other law enforcement experts said they should have done given the lack of action.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It was widely understood that the local police chief was the incident commander. He either took orders or failed to do so. Is there something wrong with this part of the story?
KRIEL: Some of the things that we found out in our reporting – that no one was really in charge and that the Department of Public Safety, any supervisor should have asked their officers, who’s in charge? What’s going on? Who commands the stage? And when it wasn’t clear, they should have gone to the school police chief and said, hey, we can at least take it from here.
INSKEEP: You say the DPS did not play a prominent role in the response as it had before in other mass shootings and public disasters. Would it have been normal for them to say, we’re taking over?
KRIEL: The story of the law enforcement response is that the first officer who arrives on the scene sort of becomes the incident commander because that person is usually the most knowledgeable about the incident. But with DPS in particular, the lack of action in Uvalde was quite striking as he had already played a key role in numerous statewide emergencies. So, you know, the lack of action on their part was pretty striking here.
INSKEEP: Was the Department of Public Safety candid about its own role in this shooting?
KRIEL: No. And they never did, and I think that’s history. They were the ones who held the press conferences right after the shooting. They’re also the ones investigating the law enforcement response, which is interesting because, you know, that includes their own officers. They had 91 soldiers on the scene. And there were very few mentions of their role in the filming. It wasn’t until this week that the Department of Public Safety even acknowledged that, you know, there was wrongdoing on the part of their soldiers. They said they referred five of them to their own internal affairs and suspended two. You know, three months after the fact, we’re only now getting information about any sort of disciplinary action from the state police.
INSKEEP: Now that they’ve referred some officers for investigation, has the department said in a broader sense, we didn’t do it right, we want to change some things, here’s what we want to change?
KRIEL: No, they didn’t answer any questions, really. Frankly, they just haven’t released anything that would help the public understand both what happened that day, but also what their advice and protocols are. And so I think at a minimum, a little more light on that would help us understand.
INSKEEP: Lomi Kriel of the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Unit, thank you very much.
KRIEL: Thank you for inviting me.
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