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Gov. Greg Abbott is deploying Department of Public Safety officers to combat what he called gang violence in Uvalde after local police said two juveniles were shot there Thursday. The governor’s immediate call for a statewide response comes as the state police force continues facing criticism for the delayed reaction to the deadly school shooting in Uvalde earlier this year.
Two juveniles were injured in a shooting at Uvalde Memorial Park on Thursday, the Uvalde Police Department said in a statement on Facebook. The individuals were transported to San Antonio hospitals for treatment, but their conditions remain unknown.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement that the incident was a “suspected gang related shooting.” Neither DPS nor local law enforcement agencies released information about any suspects.
The shooting comes 15 weeks after the deadliest school shooting in Texas claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School and two days after the beginning of a new school year for Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. DPS has sent more than two dozen troopers to the school district’s campuses as children returned to class, a move some residents have called offensive given what they called a lack of action by the agency’s officers during the May attack.
Abbott released a statement hours after the Thursday shooting, which occurred less than a mile from Robb Elementary in the tiny city of 16,000 residents, condemning what he said was gang violence that endangered the Uvalde community.
“After speaking with the mayor and the county judge about the immediate need for more law enforcement support, I have directed the Department of Public Safety to conduct patrol operations in the gang hotspots, send an additional six DPS trooper units to work around the clock, and begin coordinating an anti-gang effort with the city,” Abbott’s statement read.
Abbott said that DPS will work with the Uvalde Police Department and Uvalde County Sheriff's Office to target the five gangs he said are operating in Uvalde. Abbott did not specify which gangs he referred to, and his office did not immediately respond to questions about where the DPS units would come from. A DPS spokesperson also did not immediately respond to questions late Thursday.
Abbott’s Thursday announcement about deploying DPS officers to help combat gangs in Uvalde comes days after The Texas Tribune and ProPublica reported that DPS officials have deflected blame away from the agency about how state troopers responded to the Robb Elementary shooting. Though DPS officers outnumbered local law enforcement 2-to-1, they did not take charge of the scene after the school district police chief failed to assume a supervising role.
Of the nearly 400 law enforcement officers who responded to the Robb Elementary shooting, 91 were from DPS, and several state troopers arrived within minutes. But the agency has largely avoided scrutiny, in part because its leaders are controlling which records get publicly released and have shaped a narrative that casts local law enforcement as incompetent.
Law enforcement experts across the country have questioned why DPS didn’t take a lead role in the response, as it had in previous mass shootings and disasters. A report from a Texas House legislative committee identified several “systemic failures” and criticized police agencies for inaction that led to a chaotic scene without a clear leadership structure.
Instead of taking charge when it became clear that local law enforcement had not done so, DPS troopers contributed to the 74-minute disordered response that did not end until a Border Patrol tactical unit entered the classroom and killed the gunman.
Since the May 24 massacre, the school district’s police chief has been fired and the city’s acting police chief has been suspended. Earlier this week — more than three months after the Robb Elementary shooting — a DPS spokesperson said five troopers who responded to the school shooting will face a formal investigation by the agency’s internal affairs. Two troopers were suspended with pay and three others remain on duty.
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