CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Uvalde school shooting investigator walks out of meeting without taking questions

Mar 7, 2024, 3:30 PM

A memorial dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas...

A memorial dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Originally Published: 07 MAR 24 14:44 ET
Updated: 07 MAR 24 16:42 ET

(CNN) — Moments after presenting the findings of an independent report on the May 2022 school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, the man who led it walked out of a city council meeting without taking questions, sparking the fury of many victims’ families.

“I don’t want to hear an explanation. I want him back,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was among 19 children killed, yelled at city officials. She was referring to the retired Austin police detective who presented the report, which did not identify any officers who violated policy.

The ex-detective, Jesse Prado, later returned to the meeting.

Prado earlier Thursday told city officials that the local prosecutor made it difficult for him to gather evidence.

Prado spoke at the packed Uvalde city council meeting, where frustrated families heard the findings of yet another investigative report into the police response to the school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead are being released.

“I had a lot of difficulty in gathering all the evidence … the information that I needed to complete a thorough examination of what these officers did,” Prado told city officials. “The district attorney did not allow me to receive a copy of information regarding this case from other sources, other agencies.”

CNN is reaching out to Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell for comment.

Prado’s investigation – like many of the previous probes – discovered what he said were “many failures,” including inadequate communications in the initial moments after officers arrived, he told city officials.

“When the officers initially made entry into the school, they made 28 attempts to use their radios to get information out to the rest of the officers that were showing up,” Prado said. “And these were 28 attempts before they were shot at that I counted from the body cams and from any video that I received.”

“They had no idea what they were facing when they got here until somebody went outside … of the building to get on the radio,” he added.

The results of the city’s independent investigation – one of multiple probes into what the US Justice Department and other agencies have agreed was a disastrous law enforcement response – comes as the seemingly elusive quest for accountability by families of the victims approaches its second year.

The meeting also comes days after two men criticized for their failures to challenge the Uvalde school shooter and rescue children and teachers trapped in the carnage won support from voters to continue as law enforcement leaders in the Texas community.

The election results stunned and upset families of victims who have maintained that law enforcement could have saved lives that day.

The city council meeting began at 2 p.m. local time, with Prado’s presentation.

Six weeks after the massacre, former Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told CNN he had lost faith in the larger investigation into what had happened and feared a cover-up was happening.

There have certainly been false reports from officials of what happened that have had to be corrected: from the initial accounting that police rushed towards the shooter and saved lives (instead, he was left unchallenged in the school for 77 minutes) to versions that a teacher had propped a door open (she had not) to accounts that a Uvalde police officer had an opportunity to shoot the gunman before he entered the school (no UPD officer saw him).

In July 2022, the Uvalde City Council said it was launching its own investigation into the actions of every city police officer who responded. The council appointed Jesse Prado, a former Austin police detective, to lead the investigation.

The decision by Mitchell to withhold information that would normally be public while she completed her investigation added to the lack of transparency.

In June 2022, Mitchell told CNN she did not want records or videos released while investigations were ongoing. “Any release of records to that incident at this time would interfere with said ongoing investigation and would impede a thorough and complete investigation,” she said in a statement.

A coalition of major news organizations, including CNN, filed a lawsuit to obtain records in a case that has not yet been decided.

Mitchell was also sued twice by McLaughlin when he was mayor for failing to share evidence from and concerning Uvalde police officers with the investigator, Jesse Prado.

CNN analyzed body camera and surveillance video, along with radio transmissions and phone calls, to create a timeline that showed the initial action and almost immediate loss of impetus that left the gunman unchallenged inside the school for 77 minutes.

That analysis preceded and concurred with the Department of Justice fact-finding report released in January that highlighted repeated failures of leadership and lost opportunities to stop the bloodshed earlier.

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Uvalde school shooting investigator walks out of meeting without taking questions