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Uvalde school shooting: What to know about the charges against two former school police officers

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Uvalde school shooting: What to know about the charges against two former school police officers




CNN
 — 

More than two years after the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde left 19 children and 2 teachers dead, a grand jury indicted two former Uvalde school police officers in the botched law enforcement response to the 2022 mass shooting.

Former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo and former school police officer Adrian Gonzales were named in the indictments, which represent the first criminal charges filed in the school shooting.

The victims’ families, who have been fighting for years in search of answers as to why the shooter was left for 77 minutes – with dead, dying and traumatized victims – before he was stopped, are still shattered, heartbroken and grieving.

“We still drown in sadness, there’s still a whole lot of anger because these men have walked around for the last two years, one month and four days, walking around like they didn’t do anything wrong,” Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia, 10, told CNN.

Arredondo and Gonzales were among the 376 law enforcement officers who arrived at the school, and it took them more than an hour to confront and kill the teenage shooter from the time he entered the school through an unlocked door. The response to the attack has been denounced as an “abject failure” with enough blame to be spread widely.

Families are now struggling with mixed emotions. The indictments provided a small measure of hope in their quest for accountability but with only two officers facing charges, they said it is far from enough.

“I think these indictments, taking these officers off of the streets so they’re never in the position to put others in danger again, that’s a win for the community, for Texas,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of victim Lexi Rubio, 10, told CNN. “As for the families of victims, nothing will ever change what happened. What we want most we can’t have, we want our children and those two teachers back.”

What’s next? Here are answers to some of the biggest questions.

Former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo surrendered to the custody of the Texas Rangers in Uvalde Thursday, an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.

The former chief was booked on 10 felony charges of child endangerment with known criminal negligence for failing to recognize the incident as an active shooting and for failing to take proper action to intervene, the indictment said. According to the filing, the behaviors placed each of the 10 children listed in “imminent danger of bodily injury, death, physical impairment and mental impairment.”

Arredondo was hired by the school district in March 2020 and fired in August 2022 for his role in the highly scrutinized law enforcement response on May 24, 2022.

For more than two years, Arredondo’s actions on the day of the shooting have been under scrutiny from the families of victims and survivors, the Uvalde community and in several investigative reports, including one released this year by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Arredondo’s lawyer has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Former school police officer Adrian Gonzales posted bail Friday and was released after being charged with 29 counts of abandoning and endangering a child, the Uvalde County Sheriff said in a news release.

Gonzales, who was hired by the school district in July 2021, left the department in February 2023. No specific reason was given for Gonzales’ departure, according to the Uvalde News Leader.

Gonzales was booked into the Uvalde County Jail early Friday afternoon, the Uvalde Leader-News reported, citing Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brandon McCutchen.

Jail records show both Arredondo and Gonzales were released on $10,000 bond.

The indictment listed Gonzales as one of the responders to the scene, something Mata-Rubio said she did not previously know.

“As far as Adrian, it was not a name that was on my radar, and I was unaware of the details of his part on that date,” said Mata-Rubio. “Twenty-one people could have gone home that day had Adrian Gonzales done his job.”

“After hearing gun shots and after being advised of the general location of the shooter and having time to respond to the shooter, the said Adrian Gonzales failed to engage, distract or delay the shooter to attempt to engage, distract and delay the shooter, and failed to otherwise act in a way to impede the shooter until after the shooter entered rooms 111 and 112 of Robb Elementary School and shot at a child or children in Rooms 111 and 112,” the indictment states, with the allegation repeated for each of the 19 children killed and 10 surviving children.

The indictment also said Gonzales failed to “follow his active shooter training” in his response.

“Mr. Gonzales’ position is he did not violate school district policy or state law,” defense attorney Nico LaHood told CNN Friday. “The application of this statute, to law enforcement, under these circumstances is unprecedented in the state of Texas. It will take time to evaluate these allegations and the underlying facts.”

The indictment also alleges Arredondo “failed to respond as trained to an active shooter incident” and delayed the response by law enforcement to stop the gunman “who was hunting and shooting” children inside the classroom.

The Uvalde County District Attorney’s office is not planning to file any more indictments in the botched response to the shooting, according to family members who have spoken to District Attorney Christina Mitchell.

Mata-Rubio and Cross told CNN they were informed by Mitchell there would be no further indictments coming out of the grand jury.

The district attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s multiple requests for comment.

“I’m glad two people are indicted,” Mata-Rubio told CNN Friday. “It’s not justice until there are convictions. But I am also aware that there were others at fault that day, and it’s hard to accept that they will not face any consequences.”

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I feel like that’s not enough,” Cross told CNN. “Although to be perfectly honest, it will never be enough, because even if all 376 officers get charged, my son’s still not here.”

What has been the reaction from local officials and police?

The Uvalde Police Department released a statement on Facebook saying they are aware of the news regarding the two indictments.

“Our administration has not been contacted by the District Attorney’s Office regarding any of our staff and we don’t have any comment at this time regarding the matter,” their statement read. “We have no other information on the matter outside of what has been reported.”

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District offered its condolences to the families of the victims Friday, saying it had no further information to add. “As with the rest of the Uvalde community, we have only just learned about the grand jury decision regarding two indictments being issued,” school district spokeswoman Anne Marie Espinoza said in a statement.

Mata-Rubio, wearing a blue shirt reading “I’m not a regular mom, I’m Lexi’s mom,” said she was “glad” to hear about the indictments but was frustrated state police, or the Texas Department of Public Safety, were not included in the indictments.

Uvalde shooting: Victims’ families furious after independent investigator clears officers of blame

“When they go to a scene, they know they’re in charge, they know that they could have taken over. They chose not to and this was the result,” Rubio said. “There’s the part of me that is Lexi’s mom as a grieving mother that will never understand any of this. Then there’s the logical part of me that realizes that in order to get justice, some sort of justice, this is the route the DA had to go.”

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez also told CNN Thursday he believes the Texas Department of Public Safety bears substantial responsibility for the failed law enforcement response and should have been included in the indictments.

Nikki Cross, Brett Cross’ wife and the guardian of victim Uziyah Garcia, said she is disappointed the acting City of Uvalde Police Chief Mariano Pargas was not included in the indictments.

“Unfortunately, cowardness is just not against the law apparently, even if you have a badge,” Cross said. “I do just hope maybe after these two officers and all testimony is out there, maybe we can come back to charges against him.”

CNN has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety and Pargas for comment.

Both Nikki and Brett Cross are trying to remain optimistic about the outcome of the expected trials but hope officials stay on top of the case and do not “let this just fall through because it’s the state of Texas and they back the blue.”

“This isn’t a matter of ‘Oh, we ride the thin blue line’ or ‘We need to respect cops because they put lives on the line.’ They showed us that not all cops put their lives on the line and when they actively chose to put their lives above our children when they signed up to serve and protect, you negate everything at that point,” Brett Cross said.

Oscar Orona, father of survivor Noah Orona, now 12, said while he was pleasantly surprised by the indictments, his top priority continues to be the health of his son, who was shot in the massacre.

“Today was a big day, don’t get me wrong and I’m not trying to minimize that,” Orona said. “But in the end, our foremost goal is our son’s well-being now, tomorrow, and years to come because that’s gonna be the true battle right there.”

Jesse Rizo, the uncle of one of the students killed, Jacklyn Cazares, 9, echoed the other parents in their hopes more law enforcement officials would be facing with criminal charges, he told CNN.

“It’s the beginning of something, right?” Rizo said. “But in order to bring closure, you would want all the officers that didn’t do their job that day, that failed to respond appropriately, you would want them to be held accountable in an equal way.”

It is not yet clear if Arredondo or Gonzales will be tried separately or together.

Families who spoke with the district attorney told CNN Mitchell will not push for a change of venue in this case and intends to hold the trial in Uvalde.

Victim Uziyah Garcia’s guardians, Nikki and Brett Cross, voiced their apprehension and said they have little confidence with the trial being held in Uvalde due to the negative response they have received from some community members.

“This is the same community that has driven by when we’ve been doing sit-outs telling us to die,” Brett Cross told CNN. “Same community that blames us, that tells us to move on, that tells us that we’re wrong, this is the same community that shows up for a superintendent who didn’t do anything but won’t show up when 19 children and two teachers are killed.”

Right now, there’s no date set for Arredondo or Gonzales’ first court appearances, an official with the Uvalde County District Court clerk’s office said.

Brett Cross said the district attorney indicated it could be months or even up to a year before the case goes to trial because of the amount of evidence and investigative material to be handed over to the defense.

“Now that they’ve been indicted, you know, their lawyers will have a chance to go through evidence and everything and we saw that it took this long for the prosecution to go through evidence,” Cross said. “So I’m expecting a lengthy time where the defense goes through it.”

Each defendant could face jail time of six months to two years and a fine of up to $10,000 for each count, according to state sentencing guidelines.

The world will never be the same for the families and friends of the children and teachers who were murdered. Although nothing can bring them back or fill the holes they left behind, their loved ones said they will not stop fighting for them, regardless of how the trials go.

“There’s more than one avenue for justice and accountability. If we’re able to change laws that save lives, then that’s even more justice for Uziyah,” Brett Cross said.

Many of the families have become outspoken advocates for gun reform, demanding their state enact sensible gun laws to prevent similar future tragedies.

“I want to see convictions, at the local level also at the state level and at the federal level, calling for gun reform through work at LivesRobbed, I’m never going to stop fighting for her, for all the children.” Mata-Rubio said.

“Early on I stood at the downtown plaza and I said that what I wanted is my daughter, and if I can’t have that, then those who failed her will never know peace and I stand by that.”



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