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Latinx Files: Law enforcement failed Uvalde

376 badges and one dot
376 officers from local, county, state and federal agencies were on the scene at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times)

376.

That’s how many law enforcement officers from various local, state and federal agencies were present at the scene of the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, according to a damning report released Sunday by a Texas House committee tasked with investigating the botched response.

As the Texas Tribune points out, there were more cops at Robb Elementary on that day than pro-slavery insurrectionists at the Alamo fighting the Mexican army in 1836.

Nearly 400 police and federal agents, many of whom “were better trained and better equipped than the school district police,” and apparently not a leader among them.

The committee found that “in this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post.”

Justifiably, the families of the victims are outraged by the report.

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“It’s disgusting,” Leticia Garcia told the Houston Chronicle. Her 10-year-old nephew, Uziyah, was among the 21 victims killed. “They didn’t have the courage to go in there. They had a shield. They all had vests. They had weapons, and they had numbers. There was one gunman.”

It’s not just the inaction that’s infuriating. It’s also the refusal by those in charge to take any responsibility.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that Uvalde officials met behind closed doors with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw days after the shooting to get him to endorse a telling of events that made their officers look heroic.

“The total number of persons saved by the heroes that are local law enforcement and the other assisting agencies is over 500 per U.C.I.S.D.,” read the document obtained by the New York Times. “But for U.P.D. and U.C.I.S.D. being on scene IMMEDIATELY, that shooter would have had free range on the school.”

McCraw, who oversees an agency that had 91 officers at Robb Elementary that day, second only to the Border Patrol’s 149 agents, refused to go along with that narrative.

Thanks to the Texas House report, we now know there were no heroes present that day. At least none with badges.

“They failed us,” said Polly Flores, who lost niece Jackie Cazares and great-niece Annabel Rodriguez in the shooting.

“Who protected our kids? Nobody. And they were cowards. I’m sorry to say that, and I’m embarrassed to say that, but every single individual who was in the hallway should be fired. If nobody was in charge, then anybody could have gone in.”

It’s been 58 days since the tragedy and only now does it appear like someone is about to lose their job because of it. This Saturday, the Uvalde Consolidated School District will hold a special meeting to decide whether to fire Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who is currently on paid administrative leave.

On Sunday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced at a contentious news conference that Lt. Mariano Pargas, the city’s acting chief, would also be placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. In that same meeting, McLaughlin pointed the finger at the Department of Public Safety.

“Do I still think there’s a cover-up? Let me put it this way, this has been the worst professionally run investigation, I mean, I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude,” he said.

It’s unclear if there will be further accountability, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. KVUE reached out to 23 different agencies to ask about the employment status of officers present at Robb Elementary that day, but the Austin local news station was stonewalled.

Though this tragedy happened on his watch, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is claiming he was just as clueless as we all were about what really happened.

“It’s clear that what was shown on the video was the exact opposite of the information I was given on the day I went out and explained what happened during the event,” Abbott said of statements made shortly after the mass shooting in which he praised the police response. He made these remarks not in Uvalde but at a news conference for Operation Lone Star, a costly publicity stunt that has vilified immigrants and is currently being probed by the Department of Justice for potential civil rights violations.

“None of the information that was in that video was shared with me on that day. It was shocking.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Abbott did not attend any of the funerals held for the victims. According to records obtained by 25 News, an ABC affiliate in Central Texas, Abbott’s schedule shows his last visit to Uvalde was on June 5.

“For everybody out there getting ready to vote, since this has happened Governor Greg Abbott has yet to reach out,” said Angel Garza. His daughter Amerie Jo Garza was also one of the victims.

Through a spokesperson, Abbott said that he didn’t attend because the families had requested private funerals, but that he and his wife had sent flowers along with their thoughts and prayers.

There’s really no other way to put it: The response from law enforcement and politicians has been an abject failure through and through. I’m not sure how we as a society can in good conscience ask the residents of the South Texas town, particularly the families of the victims, to put their faith and trust in law enforcement and their elected officials after everything that’s happened.

To be quite frank, I’m not so sure they should.

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The Brand is no longer brolic

"Bodega Hive 4ever" neon sign
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times)

I guess it really is true that nothing gold can stay, not even the greatest comedy duo to ever podcast and host a late night show.

On Monday, The Times confirmed with Showtime that Desus Nice and the Kid Mero would not be returning for a fifth season of their popular talk show, “Desus & Mero.” That same day, the show’s Twitter account announced that the duo was splitting up, signaling an end to not just the TV show but also the “Bodega Boys” podcast.

Rumors of a potential falling out between the two had been circulating for some time. On Sunday, fan account Bodega Boys Daily tweeted out screengrabs of comments from both comedians that hinted at an impending end to the partnership. Some members of the Bodega Hive — I count myself among them — might have seen this coming, but the news still stung.

If you’re not familiar with Desus Nice (government name: Daniel Baker) and the Kid Mero (Joel Martinez), I’m not sure what to tell you other than you missed out on one of the most entertaining and hilarious pop culture moments of the last decade or so.

Desus and Mero weren’t just funny. They were also just like us. Here you had two everyday dudes from the Bronx, children of immigrants (Desus is Jamaican and Mero is Dominican) making it. What they built and had was something so authentic that others — looking at you, Jimmy Fallon and Pete Buttigieg — wanted to tap into it.

But don’t get it twisted. Desus and Mero were absolutely hilarious. They could make you laugh by making fun of Jeremy Renner for thinking he could sing or by commenting on videos of humans fighting aggressive kangaroos. And their feud with DJ Envy is easily the funniest celebrity beef in a long time.

Desus and Mero had a good thing going, but as Rob Harvilla of the Ringer notes, it was foolish and selfish of their fans to think this would go on forever.

“What a ridiculous thing for me to think — what an unfair expectation, that these dudes would go their entire lives lugging that ampersand in Desus & Mero around just because we could only ever picture the two of them together.”

You want to know what sucks the most? The likelihood that it isn’t just the end to the creative partnership but also their friendship. Neither has confirmed it, but the general consensus is that there is animus between the two.

As a fan, I wish nothing but success and peace to the two of them. I’m particularly grateful for their podcast—long live the 🎨!— and the Viceland version of their show, which got me through hard times. The brand might no longer be brolic, but the Bodega Hive will live on forever.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be cry-singing the lyrics to “Plantain Supernova” on my floor, drinking Beck’s (on deckington) to fill the void.

Things we read this week that we think you should read

— The special Texas House committee tasked with investigating what happened in Uvalde did not release a Spanish version of their report, so the Austin American-Statesman did it for them.

“We view this as a public service for the Uvalde families and the greater community, where most residents are Latino and many are more comfortable reading in Spanish,” wrote executive editor Manny García in his note to readers explaining their decision. García also said they will be distributing physical copies in Uvalde free of charge.

“The Uvalde families deserve to receive the report’s information in Spanish, too.”

— Feel like garbage now that Desus and Mero have broken up? Let this soundboard help ease the pain.

Columnist Gustavo Arellano’s latest is a defense of food vendors, many of whom face having code enforcement called on them for simply trying to make a living. “Let food vendors sell where they may,” he says. “Get the government out of the way.”

— A new survey has found that 75% of those polled who identify as “Hispanic Catholic” believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Story by Alejandra Molina of Religious News Service.

— There is a show at the Vincent Price Art Museum called “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” that, judging by the conversation had by Times arts editor Paula Mejía and culture columnist Carolina Miranda about it, sounds (sorry) so cool you won’t want to miss it.

— For the unfamiliar, our “Column One” series is straight up some of the best journalism The Times has to offer. The latest story is no exception. My colleague Selene Rivera profiled Fausto Ríos, a former bracero speaking up about the atrocities and injustices he experienced while participating in an agricultural program that brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican migrant farmworkers to the United States.

What I’m listening to: Sometimes life can feel like you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The latest episode of “Snooze,” a podcast about “the things that people put off,” deals with what happens when it finally does.

During a road trip to San Francisco, podcast host Megan Tan finds out her dad fell down and was hospitalized, forcing her to put her life on pause and head east to Ohio. The episode is a poignant and personal piece of audio about what happens when you are thrust into a situation where you unexpectedly have to take care of a parent. You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The best thing on the Latinternet: I absolutely love it when cultures collide to produce something magical. This week, I saw two videos on Twitter that absolutely fall under this category. The first is of a norteño cover in Spanish of the “Digimon” intro by Los Shinigamis del Norte. Yes, they are absolutely a real band. Here they are doing a “Sailor Moon” cumbia.

Corrections

Last week’s newsletter mischaracterized action by the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists. The group did not issue a statement demanding an apology from Jill Biden; it tweeted a suggestion that she and her team “take time to better understand” Latino communities. The article also said NAHJ’s Twitter post occurred Tuesday; it was Monday.


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