‘We’re not getting anything conclusive,’ Texas state senator says on Uvalde police probe

In Uvalde, it will take two full weeks for the community to hold funerals for the 21 lives lost in the school shooting. But even as the grieving continues the community is awaiting reports about the law enforcement response amid serious divides about the need for more action on gun safety and gun laws. Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, joins William Brangham to discuss.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Uvalde, it will take two full weeks for the community to hold funerals for the 21 lives lost in the school shooting.

    But even as the grieving continues, the community is awaiting reports about the law enforcement response. And there are serious divides about the need for more action on gun safety and gun laws.

    William Brangham speaks with a state lawmaker who's in Uvalde.

  • William Brangham:

    Nick, there have been new questions seemingly every day about how this tragedy occurred, how police responded, what accountability may look like, and what changes ought to be implemented going forward.

    Democratic state Senator Roland Gutierrez represents Uvalde, and he is there now.

    State Senator, thank you so much for being here. I know you're — have been meeting with the families and talking with a lot of them. Can you give us a sense of how they are doing amidst this horribleness?

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX):

    You know, the families that I visited with (AUDIO GAP) visit with anyone, quite frankly.

    The ones I have visited, they're just devastated. The community is devastated. I have seen little kids that were in that school that are just — they can't — they're frozen. I mean, it's — they're just stuck. And I get it. And I understand it.

    It was the same kind of shell-shock that we had as a state and we had as a country last week. But these folks are just living it day after day.

  • William Brangham:

    I can't imagine having to deal with the enormous grief that they're dealing with, but then also what I imagined must be the anger at what they have been learning about the police response.

    And how are they juggling those two emotions simultaneously?

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez:

    You know, they're very angry at everything that's going on. They're certainly angry at the police response.

    They're angry at the fact that they're not getting the — any specific answers. One day, they're told another. The next day, they hear another story. Yesterday, it was about the door, where they were trying to point the finger at the teacher. Well, we find out that the teacher indeed did close the door.

    Last week, initially, we heard that it was the local police chief, and everybody's pointing the finger at him. I don't know the man. But I think that every law enforcement unit failed to adhere to the active protocols on active shooters.

  • William Brangham:

    There have been conflicting reports about this police investigation and some reports that local police might not be cooperating with state investigators.

    Are you confident that this investigation will be done in the correct way?

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez:

    It's unfortunate.

    It seems to me like we're living in a world where we hear one thing one day. The following, we hear the opposite. We have finger-pointing of one investigative unit. And I think that every one of these law enforcement (AUDIO GAP) responsibility there.

    And we're not getting anything conclusive. I have asked for a full report as to where each individual unit, where each officer was at the time. I was supposed to get that on Friday. Today, I was told that that may not happen while they develop further investigations.

    I'm demanding that we get this report. This community is demanding it. And I'm demanding that we get it soon.

  • William Brangham:

    Much of the conversation has also been about how we deal with guns in America to prevent events like this the next time around.

    Are there specific things that you would like to see done?

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez:

    It's very clear.

    Number one, I have called for a special session. The governor today call for a special committee hearing. And those things are not the same. There's (AUDIO GAP) no such thing as a special committee hearing. We have interim committee hearings (AUDIO GAP) can be taken.

    Indeed, from the action that he's called today, no action will be able to be taken. We need to get back into the legislature, so that we can establish a minimum age of 21 on assault rifles. It is astounding me that — to me, that an 18-year-old can have access to militarized weaponry.

    We need to have red flag laws (AUDIO GAP). We need to be able to establish waiting periods. Those are reasonable things that can help prevent this type of tragedy.

  • William Brangham:

    But, Senator, are — your state, as you well know, has been moving in the opposite direction in recent years.

    And all of the things that you're talking about are largely anathema to the Republican-controlled legislature in your state. Are you confident that your voice will be heard more forcefully now because of this tragedy?

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez:

    It seems like there is a feeling now in Texas that is calling for change, both with Democrats and Republicans.

    And the real answer is, is Greg Abbott going to do anything this time? This is now the seventh massacre. And every time we have one of these, all he does is expand access to militarized weaponry. I can only hope and pray.

    I'm going to keep doing my work to make sure that we get change.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, state Senator Roland Gutierrez, thank you so much for joining us.

  • State Sen. Roland Gutierrez:

    Thank you.

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