Former mayor ‘shocked’ investigation exonerates all Uvalde officers in Robb shooting

Don McLaughlin, who called on the investigation, said acting police chief Mariano Pargas failed as a leader on the day of the mass shooting.

By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, The Texas NewsroomMarch 13, 2024 10:15 am,

From The Texas Newsroom:

The former Uvalde mayor who requested an independent investigation into the response of his police force to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School says he’s disappointed by the results of the probe.

In an interview with The Texas Newsroom, Don McLaughlin said he disagrees with the report exonerating Mariano Pargas, the acting Uvalde police chief the day of the shooting.

“My contention from day one … there was definitely a failure of leadership in law enforcement that day,” McLaughlin said. “Mariano was acting police chief and, quite honestly, I think he failed that day.”

According to audio obtained by CNN in 2022, Pargas was told there were “eight to nine” children alive in one of the classrooms, but he failed to coordinate a response.

Pargas didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

On Tuesday, hours before the Uvalde City Council was scheduled to hear comment on the report, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez announced his resignation. Rodriguez was on vacation when the shooting happened.


McLaughlin was mayor of Uvalde when a gunman entered Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, and killed 19 children and two teachers. Many more were injured.

Nearly 400 law enforcement agencies from eight local, state and federal agencies responded to the shooting, but waited 77 minutes to kill the shooter.

The investigation, conducted by a city-hired consultant, exonerates all 25 of the Uvalde Police Department officers who responded that day.

Earlier this year, a Department of Justice investigation into the response found“cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training.”

McLaughlin said he was “shocked” to learn about the most recent report’s conclusions.

“I don’t fault the officers as much as I fault the leadership because those officers were put on hold at one point and were waiting for somebody to do something,” McLaughlin said. “I honestly believe if those officers had been told to go in they would have.”

Parents expressed their anger at the report and the investigator, Jesse Prado, a former Austin Police Department detective turned consultant, when it was released during a Uvalde City Council special meeting March 7.

Veronica Mata, mother of 10-year-old victim Tess, slammed the report last week.

“All this is a pact, it’s a brother’s pact,” Mata said. “You protect your own.”

McLaughlin said that when he asked for an investigation, he never asked Prado to cover up what happened that day.

“My instructions there were to see what the actions of our officers were that day and also to review the policy that we had in place, to see what we needed to change, what we needed to do,” McLaughlin said.

He added his office was not “hands on” on the investigation.

The report placed some blame on the parents who gathered outside the school and were calling on officers to go in. “Lt. Pargas had to deal with crowd control because people were trying to get to the ambulances, and some were out of control,” it said.

McLaughlin pushed back against the notion that parents were at fault.

“The parents don’t have blame in this,” he said. “There were enough officers there.”

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