Uvalde shooting: School district fires officer after CNN identifies her as trooper under investigation for her response to massacre


Uvalde, Texas
CNN

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District on Thursday fired a newly hired school officer after CNN identified her as one of the officers being investigated for her actions during the Uvalde school massacre in May.

Crimson Elizondo was one of the state troopers who arrived at Robb Elementary within two minutes of a gunman entering the school and opening fire last May.

She is seen in her Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) uniform, handgun drawn, outside the Uvalde school building, and then briefly in the hallway on the body camera footage of another law enforcement officer.

Later, she can be heard on body camera footage talking to other officers when someone asks if she had children at school that day.

“If my son had been in there, I wouldn’t have been outside,” she said. “I promise you.”

Elizondo was one of the first of the 91 DPS officers to arrive, one of a total of 376 law enforcement personnel who went to the school where the shooter was left for 77 minutes — with dead, dying and traumatized victims — before he was stopped. The response to the attack, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, has been condemned as an “absorbing failure” with enough blame to be spread widely.

The school’s police chief was fired, and now seven DPS officers are being investigated for what they did — or didn’t do. CNN has exclusively revealed that Elizondo is one of the officers being investigated. A source close to the investigation also confirmed this to CNN.

She no longer works for DPS. Over the summer, she was hired as a police officer for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, where her role is to protect some of the same children who survived the Robb Elementary shooting.

Elizondo declined to speak to CNN in person, by phone or by direct message.

Following this CNN report, the school district released a statement announcing her resignation effective Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened by the information that was revealed last night about one of our newly hired employees, Crimson Elizondo,” the district’s statement said. “We sincerely apologize to the victim’s families and the greater Uvalde community for the pain this disclosure has caused. Elizondo’s statement in the audio is not consistent with the district’s expectations.”

“Regarding the remaining UCISD police officers, we continue to make personnel decisions based on verifiable information. An independent investigation is underway to evaluate the actions of the current officers on May 24, 2022. Additionally, we await the results of a management and organizational review by the UCISD Police Department, which will help the district take informed actions to further ensure the safety and security of our schools,” the statement added.

Crimson Elizondo was clearly visible on Uvalde police body camera footage released by the mayor.  Many other recordings have not been published.

Uvalde CISD has said it wanted to recruit 10 more officers after the May 24 attack. It did not specifically announce the hiring of Elizondo over the summer, although the names and photos of her and four other police officers, a lieutenant and a security guard are on its website under the banner “KEEP UCISD SAFE.”

Superintendent Hal Harrell told a special town hall meeting in August that at least 33 DPS officers would also be deployed around the district’s eight schools. After initial concerns from residents that officers who failed to stop the killing would be tasked with school security, parent Brett Cross told CNN that he had been assured that they deployed DPS officers would not have responded to the shooting.

In her new position, this restriction does not apply to Elizondo. Children and parents walked past her as they entered the school year at Uvalde Elementary, the new home of the younger students who survived the Robb bloodshed.

And some parents, including those who lost children in the massacre, recognized her from the body camera footage the mayor had released, family members told CNN.

“We are disgusted and angered by Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s (UCISD) decision to hire Officer Crimson Elizondo. Her hiring calls into question the credibility and thoroughness of UCISD’s HR and evaluation practices,” according to a statement from family representatives.

It made them feel uncomfortable, CNN has learned, another reminder of that deadly day in a city full of such reminders.

But they didn’t know she was under investigation.

It’s also unclear whether the school district knew about the investigation when she was hired.

The statement from family representatives calls for all department officers to be suspended pending a third-party investigation, and its findings “to be released” to the public as well as the victims’ families.

“Our children have been taken from us. We will not stop fighting until we have answers, and we ensure that the safety of the children in our community is the top priority, the statement said.

Cross, the legal guardian of Uziyah Garcia, one of the children killed at Robb Elementary, says he is “disgusted” by what the district has done.

“I’m completely appalled,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, saying the school board met with him and offered to pull such officers to off-campus roles. He says he will continue to maintain a vigil outside the school board offices until all officers are suspended.

The district and its staff did not respond to emails and calls and an in-person request from CNN for this story.

Texas DPS, the state agency that assists local law enforcement in major incidents, announced an internal review of its officers who responded to Robb.

Sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that Elizondo is one of seven officers whose conduct is being investigated by DPS, but neither their names nor their actions or inactions have been released.

In a redacted internal memo to the organization’s director obtained by CNN, DPS cited “actions that may be inconsistent with training and requirements” as the reason the officers were referred for investigation.

Sources familiar with the investigation told CNN that Elizondo was not properly equipped and told investigators that she was not comfortable entering the school without her equipment.

Elizondo was briefly in the hallway while the attack was underway, but was not wearing body armor.

Footage from police body cameras and that of other officers seen by CNN show Elizondo arriving at the outskirts of the school as one of the first officers to respond to the report of a gunman at Robb Elementary.

She gets out of her official vehicle but does not retrieve any tactical armor or her long rifle as officers are trained to do.

She doesn’t approach the school, but stays with officers from other agencies outside the fence until a call comes over the radio, “Shots fired inside the building!”

Elizondo runs with other officers to the east end of the building, which housed connecting classrooms 111 and 112. Shortly thereafter, responding officers are told that the shooter is contained in a room on the west side.

The footage then plays out the more than an hour of confusion and delay before anyone goes to help the trapped staff and students in rooms 111 and 112, the catalog of mistakes that have become part of the Uvalde tragedy.

Elizondo briefly went inside the building but mostly stood outside.

As officers prepared for what became the final break-in, she offered to help a colleague and went to collect supplies for him. She was away from school when the gunman was shot and killed.

Within moments, the body camera footage shows, the hallway where so many had been standing became a scene of carnage as officers ushered students out of classrooms and assessed their injuries.

Elizondo was soon there, urging the students to “go, go, go” if they were able and not to look at their injuries or the blood on the floor. She comforted a boy while an officer checked his wounds, telling him over and over that she was there with him, that he would be okay and that his parents would be told soon.

The footage showed her traveling to the hospital in a school bus with students who were shot and traumatized, again helping to care for them.

DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw said in August, “Every single one of our officers will undergo a review by the DA and an internal investigation — just because they didn’t break the law doesn’t mean they acted properly based on our policy.”

Two weeks later, official notes from a meeting showed McCraw told the captains, “No one is losing their job.” McCraw told CNN he had been misquoted in the minutes and vowed that “nobody gets a pass.”

Elizondo, right, in his new UCISD uniform, declined to speak to CNN.

He said he would release all the information when he could, but the local district attorney has asked him not to do so until the criminal investigations are completed, a process he has acknowledged could take years.

Prosecutor Christina Mitchell Busbee will charge anyone who committed a crime at Robb Elementary, including law enforcement, she says.

CNN reached out to the Department of Public Safety, which declined to comment for this story.

A coalition of news organizations, including CNN, is suing DPS for records related to the investigation that have been withheld from the media and the public.

So far, the only person known to have lost their job over the response to the shooting has been school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired by the school board in August. Arredondo became the figurehead of the failed response, though he has said he did not consider himself the incident leader and has called for his reinstatement.

Elizondo earned a base salary of $59,715 at DPS, according to a database compiled by The Texas Tribune, reflecting a 12% increase from a year ago. She joined the department in 2018.

Her new salary is not known, but a job posting for a similar role has a lower salary range, from $41,584 to $59,158.

This posting lists mental and physical requirements for the position, including an “Ability to effectively deal with personal danger, which may include sudden exposure to armed individuals … under intense threatening conditions.”

On May 24, as she rode the school bus back to Robb Elementary from the hospital, she told another officer, “Nothing could prepare you for what they brought out. It was horrible.”

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