Police from all over Texas converge on Uvalde

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UVALDE — Police officers from across Texas are out in force in Uvalde, providing a remarkable law enforcement presence at the funerals of the 19 children and 2 teachers killed in the Robb Elementary School massacre.

Out-of-town officers began to converge on town after the May 24 shooting. Although they say they are there to support the Uvalde police, the exact nature of their role is unclear.

Police departments with a visible presence in Uvalde include Fort Worth, Lubbock, Del Rio, Allen, Conroe, Pearland, Grand Prairie, College Station and Bedford. Many of these services do not appear to operate here under an official agreement with the town of Uvalde.

The outside officers were particularly visible during the funerals of the victims of the massacre. Journalists were not allowed to attend services and were restricted to designated viewing areas. Although the number of reporters in town has dwindled, interactions with police have become tense.

Officers threatened to arrest journalists for walking on public roads near the funeral. Police officers were also seen mingling with members of motorcycle clubs, who hampered journalists’ efforts to observe and photograph the funeral by physically surrounding them and obstructing their view, even in media areas.

Law enforcement officers from across the state speak outside during the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas on June 3, 2022.


Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News/Staff Photographer
Law enforcement officers from across the state speak outside during the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas on June 3, 2022.

Law enforcement officers from across the state speak outside during the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas on June 3, 2022.


Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News/Staff Photographer


Law enforcement officers from across the state speak outside during the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde. (Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News)

Outside Hillcrest Memorial Cemetery, where two of the slain children were buried on Friday, two police officers from Bedford, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, appeared to lead mourners away from two Hearst Newspapers reporters.

At one point, officers urged mourners to “walk faster” to avoid reporters, who were standing where police had ordered them to wait.

Bedford Police did not respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, a uniformed Lubbock police officer saw bikers from a group called Guardians of the Children surround a Hearst Newspapers reporter who was walking down a public street near a funeral. The confrontation was captured on video posted to Twitter.

A Lubbock Police Department spokesman, Antonio Leal, said the officer was “acting in his official capacity providing traffic direction for a funeral procession in Uvalde.”

“Our officers, including the one pictured in the video, operate under the direction of the command center located in Uvalde and not in coordination with other organizations,” Leal said.

He added, “The Lubbock Police Department strongly believes in the First Amendment protections provided to the media and citizen reporters to cover and share news of any incident, whether in our jurisdiction or not.”

In Del Rio, Lt. Hubert Smith said his department had a pair of two-officer teams in Uvalde since the shooting. The teams – a detective and a patrolman – provided security and responded to calls for police help, among other duties, he said.

On HoustonChronicle.com: A reconstruction of the course of the Uvalde massacre

When asked if controlling the media was part of their mission, Smith replied, “I haven’t heard anything about the media, taking the media away.”

Briefed on the incident in which bikers surrounded the reporter, Smith said, “It’s something we won’t tolerate.”

“We try to help with what they need, but as far as I know we don’t commit to blocking the press or anything like that. I hope not,” Smith said.

Fort Worth Police Department spokesman Lt. Chris Daniels said 12 of his officers volunteered to go to Uvalde, about 350 miles away, after the Texas Police Chiefs Association launched a statewide appeal for assistance for Uvalde.

A Fort Worth Police officer directs traffic after the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, TX on June 3, 2022.

A Fort Worth Police officer directs traffic after the funeral of Jacklyn Jalyen Cazares at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, TX on June 3, 2022.

Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News/Staff Photographer

The ministry rotated these officers inside and outside Uvalde in groups of five to six. Fort Worth pays their salaries and a per diem while they are there.

Officers are working at Uvalde without a formal memorandum of understanding, Daniels said.

“Our approach has been to ensure that a supervisor is part of each team who is responsible for ensuring that any operation involving the FWPD complies with our policy,” he said. Among other duties, the officers provided support during President Joe Biden’s visit to Uvalde on Sunday.

Daniels said that “we don’t have any agreement with a motorcycle gang, nor have they been deputized.”

It’s unclear when the Fort Worth police will return home. Daniels said the department “evaluates our position every few days.” He added, “Uvalde and the local agencies are encouraging all other agencies to stay as long as possible as the funeral is going to be a while.”

Asked to describe the officers’ mission, Daniels said it was “to ensure the public safety of the community of Uvalde and the safety of the families of the victims for the funeral services, as well as the safety of the local authorities.

“There is no directive to ‘control’ the media, only to ensure the safety and privacy of families as they mourn their losses,” he said.

Fort Worth officers and other visiting law enforcement are staying at Alto Frio Baptist Camp and Conference Center in Leakey, 40 miles north of Uvalde.

Alto Frio says it houses 150 to 200 Texas Rangers, county sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers. On its website, the center encourages donations “to help defray the costs of caring for these officers and support staff..”

Among the out-of-town officers are four from Lubbock, 375 miles away.

Leal, the police department spokesman, said officers are expected to return home on Monday.

They receive assignments from a command center in Uvalde, but follow policies established by their department, Leal said. Lubbock pays their salaries and a per diem. The town of Uvalde foots the bill for food and accommodation.

The Allen Police Department in the Dallas-Fort Worth area said on its Facebook page on May 27 that it was sending six officers and two dispatchers to Uvalde “to assist in any way possible.”

College Station Police Department marked patrol vehicles were observed performing a very specific role: guarding the home of Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, Chief of Police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.

College Station Police Lt. Rodney Sigler said the department dispatched four officers and a supervisor to Uvalde for several days after authorities requested assistance “due to the magnitude of the incident.” He said that the local authorities had given them missions.

Arredondo was the on-scene incident commander during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, and he was widely condemned for detaining the assembled police officers for more than an hour while 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos, armed with a an assault rifle style, was holed up in two adjoining classrooms filled with children and two teachers.

A Texas DPS soldier waits by his vehicle during the funeral of Jayce Carmelo Luevanos and Jailah Nicole Silguero at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde on Friday.

A Texas DPS soldier waits by his vehicle during the funeral of Jayce Carmelo Luevanos and Jailah Nicole Silguero at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde on Friday.

Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News/Staff Photographer

State officials say Arredondo decided that after Ramos fired an initial heavy shootout, the crisis went from an “active shooter” situation to a “barricaded subject” situation, which the children didn’t were more in danger and that it was time to wait for the arrival of more officers with specialized equipment.

It was “the wrong decision, period,” Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference last week. “There is no excuse for this. From what we know, we think there should have been an entry as soon as possible.

Eventually, a Border Patrol tactical unit stormed the classroom and killed Ramos.

Arredondo has made no public comment on his handling of the incident.

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