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Texas state trooper who was among the first to respond to Uvalde school massacre has been fired, official says

By Shimon Prokupecz, Matthew J. Friedman, Rachel Clarke and Elizabeth Joseph, CNN

Sgt. Juan Maldonado, a Texas state trooper who was among the first to respond to the Uvalde mass school shooting in May, has been fired from the state Department of Public Safety, spokesperson Ericka Miller told CNN on Friday.

The public safety department did not disclose the grounds for termination.

CNN has requested additional details from the department regarding their termination process, including timeframe and potential appeal process. CNN has also reached out to Maldonado for comment.

Maldonado’s ousting comes after public outcry and condemnation over the extreme delay in law enforcement response to the shooting at Robb Elementary, where a teenage gunman entered adjoining classrooms on May 24 and opened fire.

The shooter killed 19 students and two teachers and wounded others, while dozens of officers arriving on scene failed to immediately take down the gunman.

In early August, CNN was the first to report Maldonado was seen on body camera video arriving 4 minutes and 51 seconds after the gunman began his massacre, which became the deadliest school shooting in the US since 2012.

A total of 376 law enforcement officers would arrive on the scene, yet it took 77 minutes from the onset of the attack before the gunman was shot and killed by authorities, according to a Texas House investigative committee. Some 91 Department of Public Safety officers were among those on scene.

In August, DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw announced an internal review of every DPS officer who responded to the shooting. Seven officers were subsequently referred to the inspector general for further investigation. Their names were not publicly released.

CNN identified one of the officers being investigated as Capt. Joel Betancourt, who issued an order to delay the breach of the classrooms even as a Border Patrol Tactical Unit was entering and stopping the gunman. As of Thursday, Betancourt remained on active duty. DPS declined to comment on Betancourt when asked by CNN Friday.

Another DPS officer under scrutiny was Crimson Elizondo, who left the department and was later hired as a police officer for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. She was fired from that position after CNN reported what she did and said at Robb Elementary on the day of the massacre during the response.

McCraw told CNN in September no officer would get a pass, adding he would also take responsibility if needed.

“I’ll be the first to resign, I’ll gladly resign, I’ll tender my resignation to the governor if I think there is any culpability in the Department of Public Safety. Period,” he said.

CNN is in a coalition of news organizations suing the DPS for records relating to the investigations that have been withheld from the media and public.

Uvalde school board superintendent retired

As the fallout continues following law enforcement’s botched response to the massacre at Robb Elementary, families of the victims have been demanding greater accountability from officials.

The school board in August fired Pete Arredondo, who was the Uvalde school district police chief at the time of the shooting. State officials identified Arredondo as the on-scene police commander, though he has said he did not consider himself in charge.

At the time, DPS director McCraw blamed Arredondo for officers’ failure to confront the shooter, adding that the commander was “the only thing” that stopped officers. Local officials criticized McCraw and DPS for a lack of transparency regarding their investigation.

Further, some parents also called for the removal of Hal Harrell, who served as the superintendent for the Uvalde school district. Harrell formally retired this week.

“I am truly grateful for your support and well wishes. My decision to retire has not been made lightly and was made after much prayer and discernment,” he said in a social media post dated October 10. “My heart was broken on May 24th and I will always pray for each precious life that was tragically taken as well as their families.”

Harrell’s retirement came months after a Texas state House committee that investigated the response found the school did not comply with safety policies. The committee’s report also said the school failed to adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder and the common practice of leaving doors unlocked.

Before retiring, Harrell announced safety measures, including the addition of at least 33 officers, 500 cameras as well as the installation of fences around campuses.

The district has since suspended its police force operations and placed a lieutenant and another top school official on leave as part of its investigation.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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