UVALDE, Texas (Nexstar) — Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Crosses remain around the entrance of the now-empty school and memorials for each of the 21 victims can still be found around a fountain in the town square. Time feels frozen for the families of victims and survivors — whose pain and grief have been further exacerbated by an ongoing investigation into the mangled law enforcement response to the incident.
Parents Kim and Felix Rubio lost their youngest daughter, Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, on May 24, 2022. One year later, they’re haunted by questions.
“Just not knowing what happened in that classroom, not knowing her final moments and knowing how scared she was,” Kim said in an interview with Nexstar. “I just want to know why. Why would someone want to hurt my baby?”
In the year since, unanswered questions remain over how it took 376 responding law enforcement officers 77 minutes to breach the classroom and take down the gunman. The majority of records related to the response that day are sealed as part of an ongoing investigation.
Parts of that day, however, have come to the light through internal information leaks to the media — slowly revealing how misinformation and an uncoordinated command system proved to be catastrophic, significantly delaying action and medical care to the victims and survivors inside.
“It is the result of a failed government that my daughter is gone. I’m never going to let them forget that,” Kim said.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin released his police officers’ body camera footage last year, some of the only video that has been made public by government officials. But he said he has been unable to obtain other critical details from the case file that would provide a comprehensive understanding of his officers’ actions during the incident.
“We need to know what each one of our officers did and right now, if I went out and said, ‘OK, all these officers are gone,’ what cause do I have?” he said. “Let’s get the reports in and then whatever action needs to be taken, it will be taken. I can promise you.”
In February, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety told Nexstar the Texas Rangers investigation was “complete and made available” to Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee.
A spokesperson from DPS sent Nexstar the following statement last Friday about the investigation’s status:
“The initial Texas Ranger report for the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24, 2022, was completed and made available to District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee at the end of last year. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has no plans to publicly release the report until the District Attorney has had an opportunity to thoroughly review it and make prosecutorial decisions, and only then will it be considered final.”
However, Mitchell Busbee told Nexstar the report she received is incomplete and labeled “draft,” preventing her from possibly taking legal action based on the information.
“I understand that it’s a long process. But I think that the DPS could have been more transparent about the process with us, just kept families involved and updated. Maybe that would have established some sort of trust after May 24,” Kim said. “But they continued to fail and here we are, no answers.”
An ongoing fight for transparency
Efforts to make records from that day public are ongoing in one media lawsuit, but failed in another. A petition from Democratic state Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, was blocked by a judge — although he eventually signed a non-disclosure agreement to review the case file.
“We saw the worst law enforcement response to a school shooting in our nation’s history,” Gutierrez said. “They don’t want you to see the failures.”
The senator points to the March mass shooting at a private school in Nashville, where body camera footage and all information about police response was made public within 24 hours of the incident.
“People across the state of Texas should ask themselves, why not?” Gutierrez said. “We’re living in a state where people in power don’t want us to see the failures.”
McLaughlin said accountability, and his community’s grief, will be prolonged so long as the public does not have answers.
“Maybe information can be gleaned from this. Or we could give that information to some other community, they might not have to go through what we went through,” he said.
Only a handful of officers from various agencies have faced disciplinary action, leaving families like the Rubios frustrated.
Responding officers who faced disciplinary action
Former Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo was the first law enforcement official to be fired over the “chaotic and uncoordinated” police response that day. Through his attorney, Arredondo has said he did not know he was the designated incident commander for the response, despite the UCISD active shooter policy “directing its police chief to assume command.”
UPD acting chief of police Lt. Mariano Pargas resigned from his position in November, days before the city was set to take a vote on his employment.
Of the 91 DPS officers who responded to Robb Elementary on May 24, seven were put under investigation for their response to the shooting. Actions were taken against two officers, Texas Ranger Ryan Kindell and Sgt. Juan Maldonado. Maldonado was terminated.
A third DPS employee, Trooper Crimson Elizondo, retired and then went to work as a police officer with UCISD. Elizondo was fired from the district in October, after media reports revealed her new employment with UCISD, despite the fact that she had been under investigation by DPS for her response to the shooting.
After terminating Elizondo, UCISD suspended its entire police department and placed two top officials, Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Student Services Director Ken Mueller, on administrative leave. Mueller has since retired.
McCraw told KXAN in February that no additional Rangers will face repercussions for their actions at Robb Elementary.
A year of advocacy, marked by grief and pain
The Rubios and other families regularly traveled to Austin and went to Washington D.C. several times, speaking tearfully at press conferences and rallies in hopes of getting action
“Now I think [Lexi] still has the potential for change. It just has to be through me,” Kim said.
Kim said she’s encouraged by what she views as progress — like the federal bipartisan gun safety package passed last year and the advancement with Republican votes of a Texas House bill proposing to raise the age limit for purchasing assault weapons, even though it ultimately did not pass. While the Rubios said they will now dedicate their life to political advocacy, nothing will fill the hole in their hearts from losing their youngest daughter.
The Rubios describe their 10-year-old daughter as someone who was driven and curious, athletic, a dedicated student, often opinionated but was overall their “sweetheart.” Lexi had dreams of one day becoming a lawyer and was passionate about women’s rights.
“I don’t want her to be remembered just for this tragedy, just for May 24. I want her to be remembered for the beautiful person that she is,” Kim said. “They didn’t deserve this. None of those children did, those two teachers didn’t.”