Lt. Mariano Pargas, the acting chief of the Uvalde Police Department the day of the Robb Elementary shooting, will no longer serve on the force, following the release of a phone call showing he knew that “eight to nine” victims were still alive inside two interconnected classrooms.
Pargas called dispatch directly after hearing a radio transmission at the scene that a child had called 911 from inside room 112, pleading for police to help. CNN released the audio on Monday.
“Mariano will be gone by this week, whether he chooses to retire or whether he’s fired,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Wednesday.
McLaughlin expressed ongoing frustration at the piecemeal release of evidence by news agencies in the six months since 19 children and two of their teachers were gunned down by an 18 year old.
“We have not been briefed by anybody since the day this happened. Nobody. And it’s frustrating. If we’d had those videos that he (CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz) showed on Pargas, then we would have done something two months ago,” McLaughlin said.
Ten-year-old Khloie Torres, using her slain teacher Irma Garcia’s cell phone, placed a 911 call at 12:12 p.m. advising that there were “victims in the classroom.”
Body-camera video recorded by UPD officer Justin Mendoza relayed the call at the same time. Mendoza had walked outside of the Robb hallway, where radios were not always working, and was standing next to Pargas and UPD detective Jose Rodriguez. “They say they just got a 911 call and there are victims in the classroom,” Rodriguez said.
“Victims?” the 65-year-old Pargas repeated. Four minutes later, at 12:16 p.m., the acting chief telephoned dispatch directly and asked about the 911 call. “The calls you got from … from one of the students, what did they say?”
“OK, Khloie’s (Torres) going to be in room 112, Mariano, 112.”
“So how many are still alive?” Pargas asked.
“Eight to nine are still alive. She’s not too sure … She’s not too sure how many are actually DOA or possibly injured … ,” the dispatcher responded.
Pargas replied “OK, OK thanks,” and disconnected. He then walked back into the hallway and mentioned injured victims to a Border Patrol officer. At 12:18 p.m., he does not mention children when a Texas Ranger talked to him about organizing the flow of information. According to a CNN video analysis, Pargas then left the hallway and never attempted to organize a response to the calls for help.
Khloie would place a total of four 911 calls that day, pleading with police to save her and injured classmates.
McLaughlin said he didn’t think the Uvalde police force was “incompetent,” but that they had no leadership during the 77 minutes it took for officers to finally breach the classroom and kill the shooter
“I think a lot of bad decisions were made. And I think that they lacked leadership that day. I honestly believe in my heart, that if those officers had been told to do something, they would have done it, but they were told to stand down,” McLaughlin said.
The mayor said he told Prokupecz that his work “was appreciated” but that it should not be necessary for a “reporter from New York City releasing something, and he can get access to every f—–g thing and we can’t. I mean that shows incompetence in my opinion … in the district attorney, the DPS and everybody.”
The mayor said Pargas, as an 18-year veteran of the UPD, would be entitled to retirement pay, whether he resigns or is terminated. “He’s vested,” McLaughlin said. On the day of the Robb attack, Pargas was filling in for UPD Chief Danny Rodriguez who was away from the city on a scheduled vacation. Pargas has been on administrative leave since July, pending a department-wide investigation of the Robb response.
He declined to comment for this story on the advice of his attorney.