Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said he was outraged by the actions of Lt. Mariano Pargas, who failed to organize help for children he knew were trapped with the gunman, a CNN report shows.
“Luf. Pargas Uvalde will not be a member of the police department. By the end of the week at the latest, if not sooner,” he told CNN on Tuesday.
Pargas has been on administrative leave since July, two months after law enforcement foiled the massacre that killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. But a CNN report that Pargas contacted his dispatchers to get details of a 911 call from a student trapped in a classroom but still did not take command gives city officials justification to remove him from the payroll, McLaughlin said.
He said he was grateful for CNN’s reporting but disappointed that he and city leaders withheld from them information needed to address changes to the police force while the local district attorney conducted his own investigation ahead of criminal charges. In June, Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee said she wanted any documents or videos released while investigations were underway. “Releasing the records of that incident at this time would disrupt the ongoing investigation and impede a thorough and thorough investigation,” she said in a statement.
“As the mayor of this community and I can speak for the county judge across the street, we’ve never been notified by law enforcement,” McLaughlin said.
“I think Mariano would have left earlier,” he said, adding that if he had known what CNN had revealed about Pargas, who was acting police chief the day of the May 24 shooting while the police chief was on vacation.
“We’re going to show what put him on leave in the first place — his failure to act and set up a command situation. And then as the Acting Chief of Police, he gets this information and does nothing about what I see.
McLaughlin said city attorneys will now see if Pargas, 65, will resign or seek further action.
CNN reached out to Pargas for comment after speaking with McLaughlin, but did not hear back. On Monday, Pargas said he wanted to defend his actions despite being advised not to speak by his lawyers.
“It is not that we are afraid because there is nothing to fear. We did what we could but the point is we were told we couldn’t (speak publicly),” he said.
If Pargas chooses not to leave voluntarily, McLaughlin said, the police chief and city manager now have justification to take action and another avenue of dismissal could come through the City Commission.
Asked if Pargas should be fired, McLaughlin said “he should be,” but he added, “I don’t know if he’s going to retire. I don’t know if he’s going to be fired. It’s going to be between his attorney and our attorneys to get that.”
He complained that he and city leaders repeatedly turned a blind eye to CNN’s investigative reporting on the law enforcement response from local officers.
While the lack of information hindered decision-making, it was also difficult for the victims’ families, who he promised would get the truth, he said.
He also reiterated his concern that not everyone is open about the mistakes they made that day.
“It smells to me like a never-ending cover-up on the part of DPS because there’s been no transparency, no honesty and so on,” he said.
“Every time we change the story or they release a narrative that only shows part of the story… but it always eludes DPS. It’s frustrating, it’s really frustrating. ”
DPS director Col. Steven McCraw dismissed McLaughlin’s suspicions in September. “First of all, there is nothing to cover up. The bottom line is we get everything out as soon as we can,” he said when CNN tracked him down before a meeting in Brownsville, Texas.
McLaughlin said he stood outside the school when officers took 77 minutes to stop a gunman after entering the building and told him common sense that children were inside.
“It’s time to come clean,” he said.
“Mistakes were made then. There is no question about it. Terrible mistakes. But we need to come forward and correct it so they can learn from what was done here so that the same mistake doesn’t happen in any other school or any other community. ”