UVALDE, Texas — Uvalde City Council members held a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the aftermath of May 24's Robb Elementary mass shooting, when a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers with an AR-15-style rifle he'd purchased just days after he turned 18.
Not in attendance was Uvalde CISD Police Chief Arredondo, who was privately sworn into the governing body a week after the shooting and hasn't made a public appearance at a council meeting since.
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was sworn into to city council days after the shooting, was not in attendance at Thursday's meeting. It's the second meeting he's missed since his request for a leave of absence was voted down by his fellow councilmembers; if he misses the next one, the council could declare his seat vacant, per city charter.
Mayor Don McLaughlin said at Thursday's meeting that he had not spoken to Arredondo since received that request for a leave of absence.
After briefly going into closed-door session for discussion, City Council reconvened to discuss a variety of topics related to the Robb tragedy, often directly conversing with community members in attendance.
Here are the main takeaways from the at-times-contentious meeting.
Families continue pressing for answers
Around 2 p.m., Mayor McLaughlin and the other council members answered questions from the community, including many parents frustrated by the pace of the investigation.
"We are not getting any answers, we are not getting any justice," one parent said.
"It's been over a month. You have no idea how frustrating this is and we are just here listening to empty words," said the sister of Irma Garcia, who was killed in the massacre. "It's just words."
In one of the more dramatic moments of the meeting, in response to a resident suggesting he set up a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott, McLaughlin pulled out his phone and appeared for a few moments as if he were trying to do just that before putting his phone back down.
Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, who has a 9-year-old, demanded that Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Department of Public Safety officials meet with Uvalde community members.
“Be accountable. Come here, show your face, don’t be scared," she said in her message to city and state leaders. "We’re here showing our face because we’ve lost somebody or somebody’s suffering. Enough is enough. We have questions, we want answers, we demand answers."
Listen to some more comments from the mayor and members of the public below:
Mayor McLaughlin pledges transparency
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin – a central figure in the aftermath of the May 24 shooting after he called Beto O'Rourke a "sick son of a b*tch" when the gubernatorial candidate interrupted a press conference the day after the incident – continued to put himself on the side of frustrated residents, saying he saying he has asked for updates from the investigation into the mass shooting.
When pressed for clarification on who can direct the district attorney to release documents related to the Robb shooting and subsequent police response, McLaughlin said the state leaders with that ability haven't been communicating.
"It's either gotta come from the governor or the attorney general, and I'm not getting answers from either one," he said.
At the June 21 council meeting, McLaughlin suggested he would go as far as suing the Department of Public Safety for information—a move State Sen. Roland Gutierrez made the very next day.
"I promise you: I have been, and will fight every day to get answers," he later said. "Every day."
Parents were also looking ahead to the upcoming school year, some saying they now lack the confidence that their kids will be adequately protected.
"I understand things take time, but we need to hear something now," one resident said. "School's starting next month and we all have other kids. Nobody's saying anything that's making anybody here any (more) hopeful that anything's moving forward."
Irma Garcia’s sister said she used to work at Robb Elementary and told councilmembers that the school was never secure.
“Enough is enough, this is ridiculous. It is frightening to be a teacher now. Now they wanna arm teachers. That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. You need to do something, these kids are not gonna go back to school and it’s gonna be on y’all’s hands,” she told councilmembers.
McLaughlin said he plans for there to be "an overwhelming law enforcement (presence)" on campuses, adding it's his hope doors and locks will be checked. Still others were critical about plans to split up former Robb students among different facilities.
To that, McLaughlin responded that he doesn't have jurisdiction over district leaders.
Uvalde CISD has already said students wouldn't return to Robb, and McLaughlin later confirmed the building would be torn down.
'You are not taking care of the city.'
Some of the most passionate comments of the meeting came from the sister of Eva Mireles, one of the two teachers killed on May 24, who was angered by what she said was a lack of accountability in the weeks since the shooting.
"You failed because you're not taking care of the city," she said. "(Superintendent Hal) Harrell failed because they keep protecting Pete Arredondo. The school board failed because the minute this happened, they should have fired him. The minute that happened, someone should have said, 'No, you failed to do your job.'"
Arredondo was placed on administrative leave last week by district officials.