Mariano Pargas, who came under scrutiny for his response to a deadly Texas school shooting, is stepping down after calls for his firing.
The Uvalde officer who led the police of the city of the United States during the hesitation law enforcement response to an elementary school shooting that left 19 children dead and two teachers resigned, a city spokeswoman said.
Mariano Pargas retired Thursday afternoon after working for the city for 18 years, spokeswoman Gina Eisenberg said. She said his retirement was immediate, but the city is still processing the paperwork.
Pargas is the second police chief leave law enforcement in the fallout since the May murders, when hundreds of officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman in a classroom at Robb Elementary School. His retirement comes before a Saturday meeting at which the city council would consider firing him.
Pargas was not immediately available for comment. He previously told CNN that his lawyer had directed him not to speak in public, but that “there are many things I can explain … I would like to defend myself.”
The city placed Pargas, who led the department during the shooting because its chief, Daniel Rodriguez, was out of town, on administrative leave in July after a damning report from lawmakers to the police response.
His departure comes days later new audio highlighted that Pargas was told children were alive in a classroom with the shooter half an hour before officers broke into the room.
In the months following the shooting, state officials have laid the blame on school district police chief Pete Arredondo, who said he made “terrible decisions” as commanding officer on the scene not to confront the shooter sooner.
Arredondo was fired in August but has said he didn’t think about himself responsible and assumed someone else had taken charge of the police response, which eventually grew to nearly 400 officers.
Audio recordings published by CNN show officers gathering around the school, a dispatcher told Pargas that “eight to nine” children were still alive in the classroom where the attacker had holed up. Pargas can be heard acknowledging the information, but it would take more than 30 minutes for a tactical team to come in and kill the gunman.
According to authorities, the shooter did most of his recordings within minutes of entering the classroom, but it is unclear if there is an official count of how many children in the room survived.
Corina Camacho, whose son was shot but survived, told The Associated Press that 11 children were not killed and their families are trying to keep in touch. Having children publicly told to play dead so as not to be noticed by the shooter.
In addition to Pargas’ retirement and Arredondo’s removal, in recent months the families of the victims and some lawmakers have called for the resignation or resignation of Steve McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Body camera footage, a legislative inquiry and media reports have shown that state police on the scene played a bigger role than the department seemed to suggest in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Ninety-one DPS troopers were among the 376 law enforcement officers who ultimately responded. Seven have been placed under internal investigation since the attack, but McCraw has defended his agency’s overall response. say it “didn’t fail” Uvalde.
At a Uvalde County Court hearing Wednesday, members of the community appealed to Pargas to exit the panel. Pargas, who was re-elected to the provincial government on Nov. 8, was absent from the assembly, the Uvalde Leader-News reported.
Berlinda Arreola, whose 10-year-old granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed, said Pargas should “do the right thing” and step down, according to CNN.
“He was a coward that day and he’s a coward now that he couldn’t show his face,” Arreola said.
At a school board meeting the same day, Josh Gutierrez was named interim police chief for the Uvalde school district. Gutierrez will lead the handful of officers hired since the shooting. Five officers who were part of the law enforcement response were reassigned to other duties pending the outcome of an investigation into their actions that day.
Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson opened the meeting by talking about the courage shown by the families of the victims. Patterson takes over from Hal Harrell, who announced his plans to retire last month.
“We have all the respect in the world for how you handled things in the worst possible circumstances,” said Patterson.
School district administrators also approved Wednesday the location of the new school that will be replaced Rob Elementary School, deciding that it will be built next to another school a few miles away. The board decided months ago to demolish Robb Elementary and on Wednesday recommended forming a committee to decide what to do with the site.