Families of Uvalde school shooting victims announce $2M settlement, lawsuit against Texas DPS

Families of the victims of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday announced a $2 million settlement with the city, as well as a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety and 92 named troopers who were involved in the mishandled law enforcement response to one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

The suit contends the officers received active shooter training but failed to follow national standards and best practices.

"We've been let down so many times," Javier Cazares said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. The father of 9-year-old Jacklyn Cazares, who was killed in the shooting, added, "The time has come to do the right thing."

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed when a gunman entered Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022. A deeply flawed law enforcement response resulted in a 77-minute delay before officers took down the gunman.

"That was a heroic act," said Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families. "It was a heroic act 77 minutes late."

Koskoff said a lawsuit against the state of Texas was also forthcoming. "What has the state of Texas done, other than prevent these families from getting the information that they so deserve?" he said.

The families will also sue the federal government "down the line," he added, noting, "You had over 150 some odd federal officers there who also were there and stood around" during those fateful 77 minutes.

Koskoff said the families had accepted the city's offer to compensate them using insurance funds to avoid affecting the community financially.

"The last thing they would want to do was to inflict any financial hardship on their friends and neighbors in this community," he said. "Their friends and neighbors didn't let them down."

Also Wednesday, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District confirmed the resignation of Joshua Gutierrez, the department's chief since November 2022, days ahead of the second anniversary of the shooting. Gutierrez was brought in following the ouster of former Chief Pete Arredondo.

The district school board in June will decide whether to approve Gutierrez's resignation. If they do, his last day would be June 26, district spokesperson Anne Marie Espinoza said in a statement.

"We thank Chief Gutierrez for his dedicated leadership and guidance in reestablishing the Uvalde CISD Police Department," the statement said. "His contributions have been instrumental in enhancing the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and school community. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

It's unclear why Gutierrez resigned. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The resignation of Gutierrez is the latest leadership shakeup since the public school massacre. Uvalde Mayor Cody Smith in April abruptly resigned from office, citing undisclosed health concerns. In March, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez stepped down.

Gutierrez was first hired as interim chief in November 2022 before he was appointed to the role in March 2023. He was brought in to lead the police department after Arredondo was fired by the school board following intense scrutiny and blame for law enforcement’s 77-minute delay in confronting the shooter. This year, the Department of Justice released a scathing report on the incident and largely pinned the blame on "cascading failures" by law enforcement.

Former Uvalde police chief Pete Arredondo speaks at a press conference following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Former Uvalde police chief Pete Arredondo speaks at a press conference following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The report found Arredondo had "directed officers at several points to delay making entry into classrooms in favor of searching for keys and clearing other classrooms." The DOJ also said he tried to negotiate with the shooter and treated him as a barricaded subject instead of a continuing threat to children and school staff.

A report commissioned by the city later absolved the police department's leadership and the responding officers of wrongdoing. Families of the shooting victims slammed the report as "disrespectful" and insulting.

Gutierrez's job has been posted on the Uvalde school district website.

"We are committed to finding a successor who will continue to uphold the standards of safety and security that our school community deserves," said Espinoza in a statement.

Contributing: Cybele Mayes-Osterman, USA TODAY; John C. Moritz, Tony Plohetski and Bayliss Wagner, Austin American-Statesman

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Uvalde families sue Texas DPS over response to school massacre