AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw has been the face of the department, working to provide answers to the Uvalde community in the wake of the Robb Elementary school shooting on May 24, which resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers.
As the shooter barricaded himself inside a classroom with the victims, we know officials waited in the hallway for more than an hour before gaining access to the room to neutralize the threat.
McCraw joined Austin American-Statesman and KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski on Thursday to discuss topics such as law enforcement response, policy changes and potential disciplinary actions as Uvalde families work to heal from the tragedy.
Watch the full interview here:
Below is an edited transcription of Plohetski and McCraw's discussion:
Tony Plohetski: Obviously, a lot has happened over the past four months. But I want to start by just asking you, when we talk to the people of Uvalde, they are still so deeply hurting not only from what happened, but also from the law enforcement response. So I want to give you the opportunity to speak directly to that community, to those families of those 19 children and two teachers. What words are you able to offer them today?
DPS Director McCraw: I will have no words that adequately express the concern that we have, or there's nothing we can say to the parents, I'll be honest with you. I mean, they've lost their loved ones, and those are innocent children. They'll never be here again. Their lives will never be here again. And there's no words adequate enough that I can tell them. I can say this, is that we've got an obligation to be, candidly, brutal with the facts and so that they have that information in terms of exactly what happened. And that's part of the criminal investigation that's ongoing right now. And we also have to hold ourselves accountable for any missteps or any mistakes or anything that's criminal culpability, and we'll do so.
Tony Plohetski: Is there an apology to be made on behalf of law enforcement?
DPS Director McCraw: I'd be glad to apologize to the families on behalf of law enforcement because, as I've testified before, it was an abject failure. It violated all the principles that we've learned so much over the years. And, you know, since post-Columbine in 1999, it's always been with great urgency, you must locate, isolate and neutralize. And that's an important part, not just locate and contain, but locate, isolate and neutralize, because it's not just in terms of stopping the killing. You've got to stop the killing. You also have to stop the dying. And the only way to do that is neutralize the subject, plain and simple, especially if there's children where the subject is located at and there's teachers that have been shot or could have been shot or could be shot.
Tony Plohetski: You recently said that you would resign if your agency was deemed to have had some level of culpability. Correct? Do you believe that your agency, as we sit here today, will have some level of culpability?
DPS Director McCraw: We have some level of culpability. I've got no doubt. To the extent that the Department of Public Safety is responsible for the failed response, there are some things I just can't admit to, simply because it's not true. And I'm not in a position right now to try to defend what DPS did or not. It really doesn't matter what I say. In the end, what's going to matter is the evidence. And the only good news from an evidentiary standpoint throughout this thing has been video and audio evidence. It can't be disputed. It's there. It's not going anywhere. And the sooner we get all of it out to the families, to the public, to the media, the better off the department is better. But the state as well, and certainly the families.
Tony Plohetski: I appreciate that there is an ongoing investigation. You all are still learning things. But to what end do you think your agency specifically has some level of control?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, we're part of the law enforcement community. I can go back in terms of why this wasn't prevented in the first place. There was information out there on the subject, and people knew this. This wasn't the first time that he was discussed in terms of a school shooter. There was chat rooms he was involved in. And we was talking on FaceTime the day of the tragedy. He was talking and admitting what he was going to do, predicting what he was going to do. Yet none of that was captured by law enforcement. The way that we can be proactive and prevent another, you know, active shooter is not like we did back in the Uvalde several years ago. We had two kids that were planning to attack Uvalde High School. To the extent that that's what it looks like is the absence of crime and poor planning on the front end. So that's a failure to begin with from a law enforcement standpoint. Secondly, in any catastrophic event, there's always going to be lack of information. But there was also misinformation in this case. And that's important because, you know, when you arrive on a particular scene, whether you're the police officer or deputy constable, whether you're a special agent with ATF, with DEA, with HSI, with Border Patrol, it doesn't matter. When you arrive on scene and you see people acting like it's a barricaded subject, talking like it's a barricaded subject and it's treated like a barricaded subject, if you don't have the information, if there's children in the classroom, there's a teachers in a classroom that have been shot with subjects still in there and no one is treating those individuals, then you have misinformation. And, unfortunately, misinformation is costly, and you don't have time for that.
Tony Plohetski: So you're saying that on that day, you believe some of the officers on the ground and the troopers on the ground, some of the deputies, some of the agents, may not have had the proper information that they lacked?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I know that they lacked the proper information. It's one thing to have a lack of information. That's always the case in situations like this, and there's always a crushing demand. And I'm responsible, part of that demand for information as quick as possible, because you're holding your breath every time you hear "active shooter school." God, this is an elementary school. You just hold your breath and hope it's a hoax. Just one more hoax that has happened, or it was isolated and no children were hurt. But that's not the case in this situation.
Tony Plohetski: Isn't there also a duty, though, to go find out what the truth is, if you're on the ground?
DPS Director McCraw: Absolutely. Absolutely. There is. And that's why it's so important. And that's why our profession, integrity is so important. And you've got to be able to call it like it is. And if there's any culpability, we're looking at our officers not just in terms of when they arrived and what they did but also what they didn't do. But is it possible that if they were in the hallway sooner, could they have gotten information that would allow us or at least allowed the countermand in terms of direction of the times? It was a barricaded subject. It was not a barricaded subject.
Tony Plohetski: Could they have or should they have?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I wish they would have had, I'll put it that way. Whether they could have is a different topic because we're conducting an ongoing investigation internally. Well, the inspector general. I'm going to wait for his conclusions before I make a final determination of whether they should have or could have.
Tony Plohetski: But you do believe that is going to be part of the issue at play here?
DPS Director McCraw: Absolutely.
Tony Plohetski: Your employees, your boots on the ground, they may have suffered from a lack of information?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I know they did. I know that most of our, you know, officers at that time did arrive, because you've always, we have a very small footprint involved in that. We had six officers on duty in the county overall. When that attack and the report of the attack, the 911 call came in, most of our officers responded were either in Val Verde County or in Maverick County on the border. So, it took, you know, they drove 120 miles an hour to get there. OK. When they get there, they're being reported. And the information they're getting is plain and simple. It's a barricaded subject. The chief is negotiating with them right now. And it was even reports that the individual's in an office. So this is the information that's being, not just in terms of DPS officers, but this is the information being provided. The Uvalde PD officers, the deputy sheriffs from the Uvalde Police Department, constables, Border Patrol, told the same information as they go in and out of the building. So everyone is under the impression and no one has any idea that this is an active-shooter situation.
Tony Plohetski: Those seven who have been referred to the. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. On what types of possible policy violations they are being looked at?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, it may not be policy violations. In the end, it may just be have an expectations of higher standards. OK. It's not so much what they didn't do. It's what they could have done is what we're looking at, frankly. And, you know, just when you get there, what do you do when you get there? So the things that we're looking at is when did you arrive? What were you told and what did you do? Plain and simple. And, you know, the command staff, and we certainly, I want them involved in as well, evaluating people. You know, it's important. When did they get there? What were they told and what did they do when they got there? So captains and everyone is involved in that. Particular things comes to a valuation. No one gets an alibi. But I will wait until the inspector general finishes it. And there's one more thing that's very important, and that's the criminal investigation. The district attorney has made it very clear they're going to evaluate every officer that responded that day for criminal culpability. So regardless of what we determine in the end, ultimately, she and the grand jury will determine whether there's other culpability by any officer in that particular hallway on that day.
Tony Plohetski: Let me ask you what you think about that. I mean, you have the power to arrest, to evaluate a set of facts and determine whether or not there should be a verdict. Yeah? You know the evidence. Do you believe that any law enforcement officers should face criminal charges for what happened?
DPS Director McCraw: I have some thoughts, but I'm not going to convey my thoughts publicly right now because they don't matter, as with the evidence that matters. And it's really the district attorney. We get to decide, you know, whether there's probable cause to arrest. They get to decide whether they're going to prosecute in that regard.
Tony Plohetski: You are not willing to say right now whether or not you believe any conduct may rise to the level of a criminal offense?
DPS Director McCraw: I think that just a comment on that itself would be doing something I told the district attorney I wouldn't do, is go down that road and talk about the criminal investigation. And I don't want to comment on that. And really what I have to comment, really that matters not. It's the evidence and it's ultimately what happens. And the district attorney gets to decide who gets prosecuted, if anyone gets prosecuted. And certainly a grand jury is empowered to indict anybody for misconduct.
Tony Plohetski: With regard to any possible administrative action that is very much more in your purview?
DPS Director McCraw: Yes, it's entirely in my purview. Yes, absolutely.
Tony Plohetski: So do you believe, as we sit here today, that someone will or should be fired or severely disciplined?
DPS Director McCraw: I won't say fired. I'm disappointed in the fact that we weren't as proactive as I would like to have seen someone, because as I mentioned, you know, it's not so much that anybody, you know, arriving officers didn't do what they thought they were supposed to do. Based on the information, as is, sometimes I have an expectation that we get better information. Just because you're told this doesn't mean you have to believe that, OK? We got some outstanding talent and there's an expectation that we put great trust in them, that they're able to use their eyes and ears to be able to discern, you know, "OK, this has been reported" and realize there's no precedent for the Department of Public Safety come in and take over. I mean, that just ... we've never done that. There's no precedent in terms of the incident command. Well, that's being done. We get that. There's certainly no legal provisions to be able to allow that to happen. It's always the original jurisdiction we support in that regard. But at the same point, you know, we've got an obligation to look at what, this was a mistake. It wasn't just a mistake. It was an abject failure. So what could the department do going ahead based on what we know right now? And the one thing we can do is to do eliminate any ambiguity as a result to a barricaded subject, OK? Versus an active shooter. And from a department standpoint, very simply is that from now on, going forward, and I made it very clear long ago to our troops that they're empowered, not only empowered, but compelled when they go into an active-shooter situation on a school and someone has shot a child or has a gun on a child and children are threatened. There is a barricaded subject, OK, until the individual is isolated and is neutralized, period.
Tony Plohetski: Why do you suspect they didn't do more to really find out why? Why not be more assertive when? When there is possibly someone with a high-powered weapon on a school campus? I mean, we know enforcement can be quite assertive or aggressive when they want to be. So why did they not bring that to bear in this case?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, there's no question it could have been brought to bear. As I've mentioned before, you don't stop until the threat is terminated. Plain and simple. And that didn't happen. But I can't say that you don't immediately question the information. The best information is always inside, and it's the arriving officers and it's going to be the on-scene command. That's the best information you can get. And we traditionally rely on that information to make decisions. And when a decision has been made and information is relayed that the subject is contained, that's a barricaded subject, that we have time and do the usual situations where you call out the individual, you call for SWAT. All these things are consistent with a barricaded subject. It looks like that. And frankly, you know, with law enforcement, we don't question that based upon that. We're the ones that have the most information, the best information. That's always going to be the ranking official that's first on the scene, and that happens to be in the hallway where the attack occurred.
Tony Plohetski: With regard to the review that that committee is doing, seven have been referred to the inspector general, some people look at, you know, the sheer volume personnel. Only seven out of 91. That seems like a small number to some folks.
DPS Director McCraw: Yeah, I'm sure it does. But it kind of goes back to what I mentioned before. Most of our resources were on the border. And if they got here after BORTAC, BORTAC was a tactical unit called in to be able to do the tactical operation. That's what the chief requested on the ground. That's who came. And we certainly defer it. And that's an outstanding unit. By the way, BORTAC worked with them many times on the border, outstanding professionals. Certainly, Border Patrol's got a larger footprint there, and you've already got a Uvalde station and they've got more people on the ground in the building quicker and faster than us. And so, you know, from 12:15, when they're there, when they arrive, you know, they've got got the command aspect of it. So anybody after that, us arriving, you know, not only would we have to assume control over the chief, but also Border Patrol, as BORTAC, who's got the expertise and people is a tactical gear on the ground. At that point in time, the longer you wait, if we've got officers arriving, you know, at 12:13, 12:20, 12:25, which we do, because you can see it. You can't, unfortunately, time and distance with our enemy, we couldn't put enough officers in there in a timely manner to influence anything. No, to assist, certainly, as we're able to do from the outer perimeter and inner perimeter and the things that you normally do in terms of protecting crime scenes after the fact, in terms of evacuation, we had plenty people keep pouring into it, but the nature of it is, it took us a long time to get a sufficient foot footprint there in place.
Tony Plohetski: What is the status of the criminal investigation right now and what is exactly being investigated?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, there's always and I say this because any time there's an officer that uses force and deadly force, there's an investigation that's ongoing. And nobody in their right mind thinks that anybody's going to indict the police officer for doing exactly what they're supposed to do, and that's kill the subject. The other part of that investigation is, the DEA has made it very clear every officer that responded, OK, she's going to review for their criminal culpability. So what the investigation entails right now is what do you know? When did you arrive? What do you know and what did you do? And that's every officer, plain and simple. We start with ones, obviously, we're first there and you work backwards along that timeline in terms of making sure that you've accounted for others. And sometimes it's not just in terms the ones that responded. I mean, the department, we're looking internally as well, ones that didn't respond. Was there anybody that didn't respond that should respond? And so, some of those that will get it during the referral process we later find out may have been on annual leave somewhere else, but we still want to look at it. Why didn't they respond better in Uvalde? And that's their duty station. Why didn't they respond?
Tony Plohetski: I know that you've been asked about this repeatedly, but I just want to simply have an opportunity to ask you about it again. Release of information. You were deferring to the request of the Uvalde County district attorney. Correct? Your decision to not release information?
DPS Director McCraw: Correct.
Tony Plohetski: But I just want to clarify. That is a policy administrative decision that you were making, correct?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I believe it is, but it's also a procedure or policy we've had implemented and used for decades, long before I became the director and, frankly, when I was with the FBI. The same problem. If U.S. attorney doesn't authorize it, then we don't release it because there's always concern that we're going to interfere with the case. We're going to compromise it in some way, shape or form. And I know federal district judges and state district judges look unfavorably. If the directors and chiefs of police were out there saying things to the media that might in some way, shape or form taint the jury pool and make it more difficult to get a fair trial to somebody, and we recognize that. And if we're going to take on the investigation, I mean, the DA asked us to take the lead on the investigation as opposed to ISD or Uvalde PD and the sheriff's office. We agreed to do that. Well ... there's certain rules we're going to abide by. And after her and I discussed on a particular day that was in the best interest of the case for us not to provide additional information. And we certainly agree.
Tony Plohetski: There has been a contention out there that as the narrator of events that day, or one of the main narrators, that you and your agency, you increasingly pointed the finger back at the local officials of your body instead of assuming whatever responsibility you feel you might have. Have you done that?
DPS Director McCraw: No. In fact, if anything, I was reluctant. Even the Friday when we had figured out that we'd had misinformation, and this wasn't a heroic law enforcement response, it was a tragedy. And I got out there, I even tried to make it very clear that this is the benefit of hindsight and retrospectively looking at the data, and this mistake was made. I don't want to put a finger on somebody else. It's not our nature and we don't mind taking responsibility for ourselves, but to point the finger at somebody else, but to be honest and to be candid, brutally candid, I mean, the evidence was compelling. It hasn't changed since my testimony and since that press conference, is a mistake was made. Mistakes happen. This was a tragic mistake. And the tragic mistake was made is to treat this thing as a barricaded subject. But it was not. Plain and simple. So the only thing I did, and keep in mind that it didn't impact it's not just trying to protect DPS and our image, our officers, and we're going to do that. It's really about other officers that were in that hallway, too. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals. OK. You've all the sheriffs. There was constables, there was a game warden. There's many other officers that are operating under this myth that this is a barricaded subject when it wasn't anything but barricaded subject. So these officers OK, we already know that three of all the officers did the right thing when they went in and immediately confronted the door along those lines. So there's not, it really has the mistake and nothing is going to change it. The more evidence that comes out, and I look forward to releasing all the information, all the evidence, and particularly the video evidence and the audio evidence, because the public is in best position to look at and determine for themselves. But you can't, I can't change it. You know, I can't change the facts. It it may seem unseemly to some, but in the end, it's the truth. And the truth is that a mistake was made. And as a result, the mistake is, well, that's all I'm going to go down the road in terms of the impact. But we know one thing is that people were operating on the information that was X when it was really Y.
Tony Plohetski: And it's still in your position four months later that the originator of that, to use your word "myth," was Pete Arredondo.
DPS Director McCraw: There's no question that that's the case. I mean, it's compelling and it's not changed in anything that I testified in the before the Senate when I was compelled to testify publicly. Nothing's changed.
Tony Plohetski: I want to ask you, because you mentioned it as well, this idea that sprang forth in the hours and first couple of days after the shooting. Your personnel said it publicly in interviews. The governor frankly said it. Federal authorities said it as well. And that is this idea that the police officers and other law enforcement personnel acted heroically. How and why in the world was that something that so quickly got disseminated and yet was so terribly wrong?
DPS Director McCraw: Was it the same briefing that the governor was and senators were and congressmen and certainly local elected officials and others? And frankly, obviously, the first reported information was that there was there was 500 children were rescued as a result of the brave actions of law enforcement. You know, no real reason to question that initially. And were it the focus of the investigation. And immediately from our standpoint, anybody's standpoint, is the victim identification and family notification. Those are the priority of priorities. And to get information, we were depending on information that came from those on the scene and those in command on that scene. And that information was relayed at a particular meeting. In fact, it was Wednesday morning briefing that I sat in. And in fact, one of our regional director, Victor Escalon, you know, did the briefing, you know, after a local official passed out and was able unable to do it, he was asked to do the briefing and he relayed exactly what he was told by two individuals. I'm not going to mention their names, but the exact information he provided in that regard. But, you know, Victor was smart enough. He's been around, being a Texas Ranger, Victor's been around for a while and he caveated it. "Hey, this is what we know right now. We haven't corroborated this, but this is what we did. But this is what we're being told." And I think that the consensus was around the room, and I was a part of that consensus, although we had some questions on engagement versus encounter, whether, you know, those on the initial discussion in terms of what happened on the front end of it. So we came away from that relatively confident that, "Hey, this is yeah, OK, lots of children were saved, like heroic action." It made sense in that regard. But one thing we did caveat it in later on, but fact that was questioned later on. "Hey, until we review the video evidence frame by frame, we're really not going to know exactly what happened." And that's the great thing from our professional standpoint is the technology upgrades. We've seen all good change in technology, in video and audio just for surveillance purposes, but also body cameras, dash cameras, all those things are evidence, hardcore evidence that we're going to review frame by frame. Now, in any major investigation, you can't just do things, you know, consecutively. Got two things concurrently. And fortunately for us, we had a lot of great partners in this, including the FBI, ATF, but in particular, the FBI has helped out immensely in terms of covering leads, international leads on this, leads outside the state interviews. But technology, because it's important to capture the evidence, the video evidence, make sure that it's not lost, is preserved, to make sure that it's formatted correctly and then enhanced.
Tony Plohetski: So you were in the briefing with the governor?
DPS Director McCraw: Yes, sir.
Tony Plohetski: Behind the stage at the school before you all took to the stage?
DPS Director McCraw: Yes sir.
Tony Plohetski: And he provided information based on information he received from two people you declined to name?
DPS Director McCraw: Yes, exactly.
Tony Plohetski: And those are local Uvalde officials?
DPS Director McCraw: Yeah, law enforcement officials.
Tony Plohetski: But he did not, through his own agency or DPS personnel who may have been there and had knowledge from within DPS at that time, he had not corroborated what he was being told by the locals. He had a trust in the locals.
DPS Director McCraw: And he made it, we made it clear on the front end this hasn't been corroborated yet, but this is what we know right now, very simple. And he stepped in to fill the void from the local official. He had a medical issue, wasn't in a position to be able to do the briefing. And it was very, you know, it was very succinct, to the point. And, of course, the only conclusion someone can come away with is, yeah, it sounds like law enforcement, you know, saved the day or he saved, you know, 500 children, OK, by isolating the subject. And that was the narrative that came out of there. And, of course, the only time that narrative was countered was when we got the video back and we're able to review it, which was a priority of priorities. And we were able to get it when the FBI completed it, the enhancement or the first version of it and looked at it. So, wait a minute. This was reported that there was an ISD officer at the scene and the safety officer was confronted or engaged in, or the term, you know, encountered by ISD. Well, that didn't happen. And from a funeral home video which has been released, OK, people can see that that did not occur. In fact, that officer, there was nobody on campus and an officer that did arrive drove by the subject and confronted what he thought was the subject, what ended up being a teacher in the back. So that was the first piece of misinformation that was communicated, that the video immediately eliminated in that regard. And the second one is that this is a barricaded subject.
Tony Plohetski: Can you appreciate, though, that for Mr. Reyes, a fourth-grade teacher who laid on the floor waiting for help, waiting for the parents who stood outside begging and pleading for law enforcement to do more, to hear for three days that they performed heroically, I mean. They find that galling?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I couldn't agree more. And galling for anybody in our profession, you know, the idea that we're providing misinformation out or relaying misinformation because it was anything but heroic in the fact it was an absolute disaster. So, yeah, if I'm the parent, I'm the grandparent or a family member or just a citizen of Uvalde. I'd be upset. I'm upset from, as a law enforcement professional, because integrity means so much to what we do. We've got to act on information and the information needs to be accurate. And it doesn't have to, you know, it doesn't need to be editorialized. But, you know, what needed to be conveyed is that the subject came into the school with a rifle. He shot children and teachers, maybe not teacher, but we know he went into a classroom and he fired. He fired several rounds and he's still in the classroom with those kids are still at. The kids are still in that classroom and he's still active. He's not neutralized. He may be contained, but he's active. And the whole protocol, and what much has been invested in our profession over the years, is that you got to get to them. You got to neutralize them immediately, period. There's no excuses. There's no alibis. You got to get it done. It didn't get done.
Tony Plohetski: But even the night before, you know, a spokesman was also talking about the heroics of earlier in that day. Is it also your position that your boots on the ground, even that evening, were similarly relying upon statements from Uvalde local officials?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, they certainly were, and there's no question about it. The first one that was able to question it was, of course, the Rangers doing the investigation. And and it was Victor Escalon, and he saw, "Hey, wait a minute, boss. ... what we talked about, you know, on Wednesday morning, that didn't happen.
Tony Plohetski: I'm glad you brought that up. Yeah. You relay the precise moment and your reaction when someone came up to you and said, colonel, this is not right.
DPS Director McCraw: Well, it was Wednesday evening, OK, that day when Victor made that point to "Hey, that what we've talked about, what I conveyed, what we were told about this, this is the officer on campus engaging the subject, didn't happen." And we knew that at that point by reviewing the video footage in terms of the funeral. So the next day and all that, Victor was asked to go out by local officials to go out again, defend the response. And, of course, you know, and Victor being Victor went out there and told it like it was, that all this that, you know, about this didn't happen, and it didn't happen.
Tony Plohetski: Did you watch the video yourself, the hallway cam, on that Wednesday?
DPS Director McCraw: I did not. But I was relayed to me that it didn't happen. I had a chance to review the funeral home video from the video. No, I had not.
Tony Plohetski: Not only did the engagement not happen, but by the way, they stood in the hall.
DPS Director McCraw: You couldn't tell that from the funeral home video. All you could tell is that you can see the arrival. You can see the subject going in. But what you can see is that there's the subject at this location, which I've already provided in the setup testimony, and now you've all the ISD officer drove by him thinking the teacher behind it was, that was the man with a gun when it wasn't the man with a gun, was a teacher in the back on the south side. So that was that was able to review or able to see at that time. And that's what Victor Escalon saw. And that's why, you know, when he rolled out the next day to correct that error and, of course, the next day we had a chance to be able to review that in whole, including myself, what happened inside. And we also look at 911 calls, but also, you know, which was very important aspect of it and dispatcher logs, we did all of that and so it was readily apparent this was, wait a minute.
Tony Plohetski: What went through your mind when you saw it?
DPS Director McCraw: It was shock. I mean, how could you not be shocked? This is, it was unbelievable. It was horrific, you know, and how can it possibly happen in Texas? And we've been proud of all that we've done in progressing in terms of active-shooter responses. And we've got so many heroic officers throughout the state. I mean, how could this possibly happen? With the doctrine is set aside and we have such a travesty? So, yeah. And then of course this challenges now what do we do? Well, it, "Hey, someone needs to tell the public because we've been saying this, it ain't that." And so this is important. I thought, at that point in time, to go to where it was and, you know, where I think, the media was there anyway in that regard. But it's certainly where the the citizens were at and tell them what our view is based upon what we do as of Thursday afternoon.
Tony Plohetski: I'm asking you to step into the minds of those who volunteer, local officials. I realize that's difficult to do, but I do think your perceptions around this are important. Why do you think they were saying heroes?
DPS Director McCraw: I certainly don't see ... the mayor and the county judge because that's what they were being told and that's where the frame ,and I think they believed that for a long period of time, even afterwards. And I can tell you, my press conference did not go well by local elected officials. They thought I had besmirched local law enforcement, that there was an attack on them. It was shifting blame along those lines. Not at all. It was being accurate in that regard. And I think they truly believed initially that it really was a rogue law enforcement response and that to enter that room was suicidal. Well, guess what? That's what we get paid to do, is to enter that role, plain and simple. And it's no excuse, no alibis in that situation.
Tony Plohetski: But with regard to the two people who created that narrative, why do you think they did that? Was it to hide the truth or do you think that's really what they what they saw or what they believed?
DPS Director McCraw: You know, sometimes, I asked myself that many, many, many times, and I don't I think I've got to believe because it's my nature to be optimistic that people in this profession try to do the right thing and they make mistakes and then try to justify it there afterwards. But I, you know, it's possible. And in his own mind that he thought what he did was the right thing to do because putting officers into that room would cost the lives of officers. And, as I've said, is that, you know, we can't ever be in a profession, I'm not going to comment on that situation, but we never put the lives of officers before the citizens of the state, and particularly children. That's an absolute, you know, demarcation bright line, never can happen in that regard. Understandable. You know, we get that in the fog of war. You know, decisions are made, you know, communicate. All these things are happening. Adrenaline's flowing through your head. You get tunnel vision, all these things gone. But at the end of the day, you get paid to make the right decisions. And at some point, you have to act. And this is one of those situations where action is imperative.
Tony Plohetski: Any closing remarks to the community of Uvalde, to the citizens of Texas, with regard to the performance of your agency that day and any pledge going forward?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, we'll hold everybody accountable, the department, that we didn't live up to the expectations, not just criminal culpability or even misconduct, but certainly anything we think that they lacked in performance that we're going to do that, plain and simple. Our troops expect that. We routinely engage in that type of accountability. The only thing I can say that really, really matters is that, and we'll certainly share that information with the public and the family members. I'd prefer to share it with the family members first. I don't expect that they're going to appreciate, you know, whatever. And I don't, there's never enough. I can never say enough and do enough for those family members in the community. And I can tell you this, and the department is very proactive. We don't advertise it, but right now we're providing the security at the schools. That's because they asked us to do it. They wanted troopers. We brought them troopers, and we'll continue to do so. In a recent conversation with the mayor, they got an issue with gangs. And when he had a conversation with the governor, when the governor understood that there are two shootings in two weeks, and of course, the violence they have, they've gone through enough. And we need to be more proactive. So, we've assigned troopers to be able to assist our partners, all the police department, in terms of addressing the gang part, not just in terms of patrol roles and bring in teams of special agents. Uvalde is going to be the safest city in the state of Texas within two months.
Tony Plohetski: You said that you would apologize to Uvalde folks on behalf of law enforcement. Does DPS owe them an apology yet?
DPS Director McCraw: Well, I'll say yeah. DPS does because we're part of law enforcement. I mean, DPS is a part of law enforcement community, and a part of that is working with our partners in training, you know, training, working with them to make sure that we have clear communications, command and control going in. And when mistakes are made, because there's not an active-shooter situation in the state that isn't multi law enforcement. I'll use an example. Downtown Houston, Eisenhower High School. It was was a report of an active shooter and we, obviously, Houston PD, a large presence there, they responded because they were close. Their constables responded and DPS troopers responded. They happened to be in the area. And of course, that the point is ... it's one team and that's the right, doctrinally, the right thing. Now, unfortunately, it was another hoax and they reached a classroom. And it was certainly disruptive in terms of what they did, but they did the right thing the right way.
Tony Plohetski: But again, you apologize on behalf of DPS?
DPS Director McCraw: Yeah, I'll be glad to. If that helps the families. Absolutely. Because I believe that DPS, we have a greater role, not just in terms of the response when maybe they're late, but it's the front end of that response. What do we do to prevent this attack or to begin with? Why didn't we know about this? You know, law enforcement in general, but with DPS in particular? And moreover, in terms of, you know, "Hey, why were we training with officers earlier? Why did we know there was a communication breakdown inside schools? What did we know there?" And it, frankly, if you look at the security threat assessment that we did, you know, why did we know that that all these vulnerabilities exist? You know, why don't you know why not? We, right now, after Santa Fe, we sent troopers around, OK, to be closer to schools. ... administrative work, we'd rather do it in the parking lot or, hey, in some schools we'll even provide space for our troopers. We want to be around and engaged in that regard. But when there's vulnerabilities, what can we do to bring it to the attention? We have thousands of campuses across the state and so many of our elementary and so many with so many gaps, a little time, so many threats. I mean, what could we do better as an agency?
Tony Plohetski: Can you talk to me more about that?
DPS Director McCraw: Most of those officers, 91 officers, were assigned to perimeter duties, weren't even allowed into the building. So, yeah, there was 91. And even my command staff, those arriving in arrived 120 seconds before ... so they were there late. There's no question about it. And, unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the enemy to us was time and distance. I mean, you can't drive fast enough. You may drive 120, 130 miles an hour. You can't drive from Eagle Pass and get to Uvalde in a time that you can have a positive impact. And so, we were late to arrive. That's why you see us in terms of, you look at GPS and look at our data tracking, you can see us flowing into and we're flowing into areas providing the outer perimeter of outer security. And that's our principal role at that point. We did launch a SWAT team out of Austin, and so our team, they called them off because the event was over by the time they got halfway there. Similarly, I think other agencies did the same thing.
Tony Plohetski: So just remind me, before 12:50, how many boots on the ground did you have, DPS?
DPS Director McCraw: Ninety-one arrived, and that includes management and everybody before the breach, 91, and more thereafter.
Tony Plohetski: And then how many were in the hall?
DPS Director McCraw: Until BORTAC arrived was about nine at the most. And I say in the hall, not the same time. And for example, we had a female trooper at 11:42, she went in after 2 minutes, was already 18 officers in there. She left. In that regard, we had four troopers that came in again, same thing, hallway stacked with more people than was needed. They moved out in that regard. So, at the end, we've got certainly people that went in like the command staff, you know, right towards the end, even Victor, 120 seconds before the breach walked in at my direction to get in there, get some information.
Tony Plohetski: Well, lack of a command post is a big problem?
DPS Director McCraw: No, it really wasn't. That's the, I think, a misnomer is that what really was a problem was, is that the lack of action by the officers on the scene. Plain and simple. You don't have time for a command post. You have one. It's important. The command post is really important about afterwards, the best information is coming inside and officers don't have time for the commanders to give them permission to operate like this is a leaderless group, OK, and that's why I've mentioned, you know, whether it's HPD, whether it's DPS, whether it like in the Santa Fe where it's the ISD, this is the DPS and local departments. You all get in line. You don't wait for leadership to come. You don't set up a command post and talk about a unified command and discuss this and that. Yeah, you can, that needs to be done. So the response as it relates to treating the injuries, the medical piece in that regard that needs to be done. But right here, they need to go find the person and terminate them.
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