The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District fired a newly hired school officer Thursday after CNN identified her as one of the officers under investigation 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 school building in Uvalde, then briefly in the hallway on another law enforcement officer’s body camera footage.
Later, she can be heard on body camera footage talking to fellow officers when someone asks if there were any children at the school that day.
“If my son had been there, I wouldn’t have come out,” she said. “I promise you that.”
Elizondo was the first of 91 DPS officers to arrive, one of 376 law enforcement officers, who left the shooter 77 minutes at the school — dead, dying and traumatized — before he was stopped. The response to the attack, which killed 19 children and two teachers, has been condemned as an “abject failure”.
The school police chief was fired and now seven DPS officers are being investigated for what they did or did. CNN has exclusively learned that Elizondo is one of the officials under investigation. A source close to the investigation confirmed 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 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 announced her termination as of Thursday.
“We are deeply troubled by the information disclosed yesterday evening about one of our recently hired employees, Crimson Elizondo,” a statement from the district said. “We sincerely apologize to the victim’s families and the greater Uvalde community for the pain this revelation has caused. Ms. Elizondo’s statement on the audio is inconsistent with the district’s expectations.
“Regarding the remaining UCISD Police Department employees, we continue to make personnel decisions based on verifiable information. An independent investigation is underway to assess the actions of current officials on 24 May 2022. Additionally, we await the results of a management and organizational review of the UCISD Police Department that will assist the district in taking informed steps to further ensure safety. and the safety of our schools,” the statement added.
However, the Uvalde School District notified police as early as July 28 that Elizondo was under investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General for actions “contrary to training and department requirements,” according to documents obtained by CNN in a public records request.
It is not clear from the letter which actions are under investigation.
Uvalde CISD said it wanted to recruit 10 more officers after the May 24 attack. It did not specifically announce Elizondo’s hiring over the summer, although its website has the names and photos of her, four other police officers, a lieutenant and a security guard under the banner “Keeping UCISD Safe.”
Superintendent Hal Harrell said at a special town hall meeting in August that at least 33 DPS officers will be deployed around the district’s eight schools. After initial concerns from residents that officers who failed to stop the killings would be put in charge of school security, parent Brett Cross told CNN that he was assured the deployment had been made. DPS officers would not have responded to the shooting.
In her new position, that restriction does not apply to Elizondo. Children and parents passed her as she headed into the school year at Uvalde Elementary, a new home for younger students who survived Robin’s bloodshed.
Some parents, including those who lost children in the massacre, recognized her from body camera footage released by the mayor, family members told CNN.
“We are disgusted and angered by Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s (UCISD) decision to hire Officer Crimson Elizondo. “Her appointment calls into question the credibility and integrity of UCISD’s HR and vetting practices,” the family representatives said in a statement.
It upset them, CNN learned, another reminder of a deadly day in a city full of such reminders.
But they did not know that she was under investigation.
It’s also unclear whether the school district was aware of the investigation when she was hired.
The statement from family representatives called for all department officers to be suspended pending a third-party investigation and the results to be “released” to the public and the victims’ families.
“Our children have been taken from us. We will not stop fighting until we have answers, and the safety of the children in our community is our top priority,” the statement said.
Cross, the legal guardian of Uzziah Garcia, one of the children killed at Robb Elementary, says she is disgusted by what the district did.
“I’m absolutely horrified,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper after the school board met with him and offered to pull such officers into off-campus roles. He said the vigil outside the school board offices will continue until all officials are suspended.
The district and its staff did not respond to emails, calls or personal calls from CNN about this story.
Texas DPS, the state body that assists local law enforcement at major incidents, announced an internal review of employees who responded to the robbery.
Sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN that Elizondo is one of seven officers being investigated by DPS, but their names, actions or inactions have not been made public.
In a redacted internal memo to the organization’s director obtained by CNN, DPS was cited as the reason for referring the officers for investigation.
Sources familiar with the investigation told CNN that Elizondo was not properly equipped and told investigators she did not feel comfortable going inside the school without the gear.
Footage from police body cameras and other officers seen by CNN shows Elizondo arriving on the outskirts of the school as one of the first officers to respond to a report of an armed man at Robb Elementary.
She gets out of the official vehicle but does not retrieve the tactical body armor or her long rifle as officers are trained to do.
She doesn’t approach the school, but says over the radio, “Shots fired inside the building!” He stayed outside the fence with officers from other agencies until the call came.
Elizondo runs with other officers to the east end of the building where classrooms 111 and 112 are located. Shortly after, responding officers were told the shooter was in a room on the west side.
After that, the recordings play more than an hour of confusion and delay before anyone goes to help the staff and students trapped in rooms 111 and 112, a catalog of errors that became part of the Uvalde disaster.
Elizondo walked inside the building for a while but mostly stayed outside.
As officers prepared for what turned out to be a final breach, she offered to help a co-worker and went to collect supplies for him. She was away from school when the gunman was shot and killed.
Moments later, body camera recordings show, the hallway, where several people stood, turned into a scene of carnage as officers escorted students out of classrooms and assessed their injuries.
Elizondo immediately got there and told the students to “go, go, go” if they could, not to look at their injuries or the blood on the floor. She comforted one boy as an officer examined his wounds, telling him over and over that she was with him, that he would get better and that his parents would be notified soon.
The footage showed her riding the school bus to the hospital with students who had been shot and beaten, and again helping to care for them.
DPS director Colonel Steven McCraw said in August: “Each of our officers will be subject to the DA’s scrutiny and internal investigation – just because they didn’t break the law doesn’t mean they acted appropriately based on our policy.”
Official notes of a meeting two weeks later show McCraw telling the captain, “Nobody’s losing their job.” McCraw told CNN he was misquoted in the minutes and vowed that “no one will get a pass.”
He said he would release all the information when he could, but the local district attorney asked him not to until the criminal investigation was completed, a process he acknowledged could take years.
Prosecutor Christina Mitchell Busby said anyone involved in the crime at Robb Elementary, including law enforcement, will be charged.
CNN reached out to the Department of Public Safety, which declined to comment for this story.
A consortium of news organizations, including CNN, is suing DPS for documents related to the investigation that were withheld from the media and the public.
So far, the only person known to have lost his job in response to the shooting is school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who was fired by the school board in August. Arredondo became the leader of the failed response, though he said he did not consider himself in command of the incident and asked to be reinstated.
Elizondo earned a base salary of $59,715 at DPS, reflecting a 12% increase from a year ago, according to a database compiled by the Texas Tribune. She joined the department in 2018.
Her new salary is unknown, but the job in a similar role has a lower salary range of $41,584 to $59,158.
That posting lists the mental and physical demands of the position, including “the ability to effectively deal with personal risk, which includes immediate contact with armed personnel…in situations of extreme intimidation.”
On May 24, while riding the school bus back from the hospital to Robb Elementary, she told another officer: “You can’t be prepared for what they bring out. It was terrible. ”