Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has decided to terminate a Texas Ranger who responded to the horrific May 24 attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
In a letter Thursday, DPS Director Steve McCraw told Texas Ranger Christopher Ryan Kindell that his actions following the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers “did not conform to department standards.” Kindell has five days to appeal the decision.
“You should have recognized the incident was and remained an active shooter situation which demanded an active shooter response rather than a barricaded subject situation,” McCraw wrote in the letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.
Reached for comment Friday, Kindell would say only that he intends to appeal his firing.
Kindell’s September suspension caused ripple effects through the criminal justice system in South and West Texas where he was the lead investigator on 50 high-profile investigations, including murders, sexual assaults and public corruption.
But police experts and the Uvalde County district attorney had raised questions about whether DPS was retroactively punishing a handful of officers for not following policies that weren’t in place at the time of the shooting. Among their concerns: By firing a few officers, DPS and other law enforcement agencies will avoid serious analysis of how hundreds of police from multiple agencies stood by for more than 70 minutes while children and teachers lay shot in a fourth grade classroom.
In response to a request under the Texas Public Information Act, DPS said it does not have a written active-shooter policy. Instead, the agency said at the time of the Uvalde shooting that DPS relied on guidance from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. Known as the ALERRT doctrine, it’s considered the premier active-shooter training program in the state.
In July, McCraw sent an agencywide memo telling DPS officers the agency “will continue to embrace the ALERRT doctrine, but with one important addition.”
“DPS Officers responding to an active shooter at a school will be authorized to overcome any delay to neutralizing an attacker,” McCraw wrote. “When a subject fires a weapon at a school he remains an active shooter until he is neutralized and is not to be treated as a ‘barricaded subject.’ We will provide proper training and guidelines for recognizing and overcoming poor command decisions at an active shooter scene.”
McCraw and DPS spokesman Travis Considine would not comment on Friday.
In October, McCraw decided to terminate Juan Maldonado, a DPS sergeant who’d also responded to Robb Elementary on May 24. Maldonado opted to retire rather than appeal his firing.
Jesse Rizo, the uncle of 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, one of the students who was killed at Robb Elementary, had criticized McCraw for taking so long to hold officers accountable. On Friday, Rizo said Kindell’s firing “sends a strong message.”
Kindell had been in charge of investigating major crimes in Uvalde and Real counties. In rural regions with smaller police departments, Texas Rangers act as lead detectives on nearly every high-profile case. After his suspension in September, Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell dismissed charges against two sexual assault defendants Kindell had investigated and agreed to a six-year plea deal to a juvenile capital murder defendant.
“I am concerned,” Mitchell said in an interview last month. “I’ve got some other cases that if his situation does not get resolved soon, they may be dismissed.”
In his letter, McCraw told Kindell that “as a Texas Ranger, you are expected to overcome conflicting information and to accurately assess the tactical situation.”
Kindell was one of 91 DPS officers at the scene. Also on the scene were 149 U.S. Border Patrol officers, 25 Uvalde police officers and 16 sheriff’s deputies.
“You took no steps to influence the law enforcement response toward an active shooter posture,” McCraw continued. “This constitutes a failure to perform your duty competently.”