Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on May 27 that he was initially “misled” in the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, as authorities in the state came under intense criticism for failing to act sooner to stop the attack.
“I was misled,” said Abbott, referring to remarks he made following the May 24 shooting, which he said were based on briefings he’d been just been given. “As everybody has learned, the information that I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I am absolutely livid about that.”
After days of uncertainty around the law enforcement response in Uvalde, authorities on Friday revealed that students made a series of 911 calls over more than an hour as they awaited rescue. Up to 19 officers were in a hallway outside a classroom where the shooter, Salvador Ramos, had holed up, but made no effort to incapacitate him.
Abbott had earlier praised the response of law enforcement officers, saying on Wednesday that “it could have been worse… The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do.”
After the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, law enforcement moved towards response plans that aimed to incapacitate any shooter as soon as possible, and not wait for backup. In Uvalde, officials now admit officers on the scene did not follow that strategy. Credit: Governor Greg Abbott via Storyful
GREG ABBOTT: The community of Uvalde, that obviously includes the families of the victims, the friends of the victims, the victims, including anybody who was in that school who made it out alive, but also benefits that would aid anybody who lives in Uvalde. The entire community has been affected by this horrific crime. And through these state agencies that you will be hearing more about here shortly, you will see that we have, as a state, tremendous benefits that can aid those who are suffering and those who will continue to suffer, sometimes for many years.
One thing I must emphasize, and that is, we are going through short-term challenges right now. The reality is, many of the challenges will be long-term challenges. Texas stands with Uvalde for the long term in helping every single person in this community be able to piece their lives back together, to heal as much as they possibly can. We will be here as long as it takes.
Among other things-- and I know that there have already been some offerings to ensure that cost of funerals will be taken care of-- during the course of the meeting, there was an anonymous donor who attended the meeting and provided $175,000 to ensure that every cost of every family concerning anything about the funeral services is going to be taken care of. We appreciate that anonymous donor for his generosity, and we will ensure that those resources get into the right hands to make sure that no family who is suffering from incalculable heartbreak at this time will have to worry about a single cost, with regard to anything concerning this travesty.
Now, in addition to that, there are all kinds of needs, as well as all kinds of services. One of the needs is need for mental health care. And we have an abundance of mental health care services that we are going to be able to provide. That includes state and private providers that will be providing mental health assistance to anyone in the community who needs it. And when I say, anyone, that means the totality of anybody who lives in this community. We believe that you would benefit from mental health care services.
Those mental health care-- mental health care services are free. We just want you to ask for them. The way that you can ask for them, whether it be today, tomorrow, next month, or next year, is this number-- 888-690-0799. Mental health care can be reached by calling 888-690-0799. That helpline will be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever you need it.
In addition to that, I am announcing the establishment of the OneStar Foundation Fund to assist with ongoing challenges that would be faced by the victims of this crime. To put this into perspective, to help you understand how this works, we opened up a fund like this in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to assist all of the thousands of victims of Hurricane Harvey and received millions of dollars in support that went to those who faced challenges because of Hurricane Harvey. The exact same thing applies here.
Right here is the address. It's OneStarFoundation.org, OneStarFoundation.org-- to be more precise, if you go to OneStarFoundation.org/uvalde. You make a contribution at that site that is already a pre-registered 501c3 organization. Provide a donation to that site. There is no overhead cost. 100% of the money that you donate is going to be going directly to victims of this horrible crime to help them with their lives.
One of the pre-designated donation sites that would be-- that it would be going to is the Robb School Memorial Fund. So again, the OneStarFoundation.org.uvalde will-- you can do your part to help out the people in this community that are suffering in incalculable ways.
In addition to that, we have set up a central headquarter for victim assistance services at the Family Assistance Center, located at the Uvalde County Fairplex. As we'll discuss probably here momentarily, there may be a relocation of that site, and we will keep everybody fully informed about where the relo-- relocation site will be. Every family impacted by the shooting has been assigned an advocate to help them with their needs. Among other things, there'll be airfare, for example, whether it be through American Airlines, United Airlines, or JetBlue Airlines, that will provide victims' families with flights free of charge so that they can get here and be with their family members.
The Family Assistance Center will cover the travel and lodging costs of families who've been-- who have lost loved ones. Health care cost of families impacted by this tragedy will also be covered by Texas insurance companies and donations from private citizens. The Texas Housing and Community Affairs, for example, they have a fund to pay for needed supplies right now, whether it be food, or gas, or other essential needs. And that money can-- is available right now, as we speak.
Also, at the Family Assistance Center, the Health and Human Services Commission, who you'll be hearing from more here in a second, they will assist families in finding health and human benefit programs. Staff from the Texas Department of Insurance, the Teachers' Retirement System, the Employees Retirement System will provide access to benefits, including workers' compensation. Staff from the Texas Workforce Commission are available to get families child care and unemployment benefits. And state staff are available to provide assistance to business owners impacted by this tragedy.
Healing the broken hearts is going to take a long time. But through the generosity of our fellow Texans and the good works of neighbors helping neighbors, we can begin to stitch back together the fabric of Uvalde. Helping us to do that is the leader of Uvalde himself, and that is the mayor of Uvalde, who I would like to ask to speak at this time.
DON MCLAUGHLIN: Governor, I'd like to thank you for bringing all these state agencies here and the services you've offered our community, our citizens, because these families are going to need this help, not just today, but in the long term, as you mentioned. So for that, Governor, I appreciate in that. You know, all I can say is, I've seen you these last two days, and the compassion, and that you felt along with these families. And that I just-- I really admire, and I thank you.
And like I said, and we appreciate everybody from all over the world and the country that has sent a message of encouragement and so forth. I mean, our hearts are broken here in Uvalde. It's a very-- I mean, you know, nobody ever wants to have to go through this. Especially as a mayor, I never thought this was something I would have to go through. My heart's broken for these families.
But the one good thing about our community is, Uvalde's a strong community. I think if some of you reporters have been here long enough, you'll see that there's a lot of unity in our community. And it will take some time, but we will get over this and Uvalde will come back stronger and better than ever. So God bless you, and thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you very much. And someone who has been actively engaged in helping the victims of crime already and will remain engaged all the way through is the district attorney, Christina Mitchell.
CHRISTINA MITCHELL: Thank you, Governor, for being here. And we want to thank everybody that's reached out to us in Uvalde from across the state, from across the country, and across the world. We greatly appreciate all the support, and kind words, and prayers, and assistance that has been sent to us. And like the mayor said, here in Uvalde County, we are down-to-Earth people, we are salt-of-the-Earth people, and we are a family. And like a family, we're going to get through this together, with each other, and for each other, and we're asking everybody across the world to continue to support us.
So I, the district attorney, along with the FBI Victims' Assistance people, the DPS victim assistance people, the attorney general's office, we have set up a Family Assistance Center at the Uvalde Valley County Fairplex here in Uvalde. And at that center, it's a one-stop shop for all the victims. And we say, victims. We mean everybody that was associated with Robb Elementary School.
And when you come there, you're going to meet with a counselor. You're going to meet with all the services that the state has to offer, funeral services, Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Mexican consulate is there, the Red Cross is there, and we're there to provide all the services any family may need. And if you need something that's not there, then let me know and we will find it for you.
And that's going to be open and continue until June the 1st. We are open from 9:00 AM and to 5:00 PM. There's also food there and a play center for children. And please come and see us. Any victims, anybody that needs help, please come there. It's a resource for everybody. There's also a Victim Services Center at the Civic Center. That's run by the school district, and that's for anybody affected in the school district, and they have that services there.
So we thank everybody. We appreciate your support. And please, keep our victims in your prayers, these families of the deceased children and school teachers, and keep us strong. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you, and now I'm going to call up seven leaders of seven-- seven different state agencies to give you a very brief explanation of what their particular agency does. There are more than seven that are involved in this process, but we're calling up these seven. First is the Health and Human Services commissioner, Cecile Young.
CECILE YOUNG: Good afternoon. I'm Cecile Young, and I'm the executive commissioner at the Health and Human Services Commission. We do Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP, and we have eligibility assistance available at the Family Assistance Center. And we'll have-- continue to have eligibility assistance available on an ongoing basis, once we move into the next phase of this.
Additionally, as the governor mentioned, we have an eight-- 888 number. It's for mental health services. It's 888-690-0799. This is run by the Hill Country local mental health authority, so it is local. It is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week call center. And that is able to connect people with services, or counseling, medication, tele-- telecounseling services, and telepsychiatry services. And they will be able to ensure that anyone in the community that calls in will be connected to other available mental health services. So it is a way to triage, again, to try to make it as easy as possible for the members of the community. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. Next is the Texas Department of Insurance commissioner, Cassie Brown.
CASSIE BROWN: Good afternoon. I'm Cassie Brown. I serve as the commissioner of insurance for the Texas Department of Insurance. TDI is here to ensure that insurance companies are appropriately and quickly handling claims. What our department does is oversee the health insurance as well as the workers' compensation insurance claims.
So if you are going to-- if you're a private sector employee-- I'm sorry-- if you're a public sector employee, those employed by the school district or those first responders, they're going to have workers' compensation coverage. And private sector employees should check with their employer to see if they carry workers' comp. Workers' comp covers mental illness and PTSD, so please make sure that you are taking advantage of that benefit for you. We have staff available at the Fairplex center to help you start the process for processing your workers' compensation claims and to explain all the benefits that are available to you under the system. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. And now, from the Teachers' Retirement System, Brian Guthrie.
BRIAN GUTHRIE: Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Brian Guthrie. I'm the executive director of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. We are here today to not only help the families of the two teachers who tragically lost their lives and provide them the benefits that they are due, but also to help all the employees of not only this school district, but all the surrounding school districts to make sure that they have access to mental health and behavioral health services.
We also recognize that not all the employees of these districts are members of our system and our-- for our health care program. But we want to thank our partners, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Teladoc, for extending those benefits to everyone who's employed in this district or any of the surrounding districts. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. And now for the Texas Employees Retirement System, Porter Wilson.
PORTER WILSON: I'm Porter Wilson, the executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas. We provide retirement benefits, but more importantly here, health insurance benefits to state employees, but also to employees of higher education in the community. So the local community college employees will-- will get health insurance from HealthSelect of Texas, which is provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. And we have activated 24-hour crisis hotline to help connect medical and mental health services, and we have that information available on-- on the flyer.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. And now, from the Texas Workforce Commission, Ed Serna.
ED SERNA: My name is Ed Serna. I'm the executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission. The Workforce Commission has a local presence on Main Street in our local workforce development office, and, through that office, will provide child care services for not only the families of the victims, but also anyone who is associated in the school, or first responders.
We'll also look to protect any TANF or SNAP benefits that an individual is receiving, um, so that they don't lose those benefits because they're unable to work or to continue their training. We'll also assist with anyone needing priority, concerning unemployment insurance, or businesses that need assistance during this time. We're available locally, so please-- and we're also out at the Assistance Center, as well. Thank you, Greg.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you, and now, the head of the TDHCA.
BOBBY WILKINSON: Good afternoon. I'm Bobby Wilkinson. I'm the executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. We have a very flexible pot of grant funding that we're funding our local partner, the Community Council of South Central Texas. They have a field office here. They're at the Family Assistance Center. They're already passing out grocery and gas cards. They can help with lodging expenses, even some extended family. Maybe your grandma or someone's here and she needs help with gas, with lodging, et cetera. It's very flexible, and we're-- we're looking forward to helping as many people as we can. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. And last is the head of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath.
MIKE MORATH: Thank you. TEA has been working in close coordination with the school system. I want to say thank you publicly to Hal Harrell for your leadership and for the work that all of our educators have done. The-- the agency provides support directly in the form of grant funds. We have offered supplemental counseling services. Those counseling services have been provided, really, around the clock and since this began. And we'll continue to provide support as the school district prepares its responses for both summer and this fall.
GREG ABBOTT: Thank you. So once again, whether it be the services you heard about, or there are many more that we talked about earlier, providing briefing to local officials, the state of Texas has robust resources to ensure that these families who have been devastated by this horrific crime, as well as the entire community, we will be able to help them with any and all of their needs. I cannot overemphasize enough that everybody, students, teachers, law enforcement, everybody in this community, please avail yourself of absolutely free mental health care. It'll pay off in the long run. With that, I'll be happy to take a few questions.
GREG ABBOTT: Go ahead.
- Do you feel now that [INAUDIBLE]?
GREG ABBOTT: Sure. So--
GREG ABBOTT: I'll directly answer your questions. Before I start answering questions unrelated to the discussion that we've had about the benefits that we're providing in the community, let's take those questions first, then I'll come back to you first. Go ahead.
- Governor, do you plan to call a representative either this year or early next year? Next year you [INAUDIBLE]. Will you call a special session now or soon?
GREG ABBOTT: I'll put you second in the queue. Let's do-- let me make clear-- maybe I wasn't clear-- before I start taking questions unrelated to the benefits that we're providing to the community, we have an obligation as a state to communicate to the people of this community the benefits that are available to them. Their lives are crushed. They have no idea what's going on. They may have no idea whatsoever how they're going to pay a bill.
Let me give you an easy example of something explained to me. There was a parent who lost some glasses that were crushed in everything that happened. And he told someone he had no money to pay for it. We have money to pay for that stuff. There are people who have no idea about getting food. We have money that can-- that can buy them food. Let's discuss if you have any questions about these benefits. If you don't have any questions, that's fine, but if there's anybody here--
- Governor, with all due respect, for three days this community has heard a version of the story, based in large part on what you told them on Wednesday afternoon that these officers had acted with leading courage. But today we learned that 19 officers hid in a hallway of that school for nearly an hour while the gunman--
GREG ABBOTT: OK.
- --slaughtered those children, which goes against what-- the way they've been trained.
GREG ABBOTT: Sure.
GREG ABBOTT: And I'm going to be answering that, and that's his--
- Do you know these [INAUDIBLE] the time, or try to be clear and fair with her?
GREG ABBOTT: No. I'm going to fully answer it and because that's what he asked, and I told him I'm going to ask his-- answer his question first.
GREG ABBOTT: Hold it.
GREG ABBOTT: I understand. Is there anybody here who has any question about the benefits that are being provided to anybody here who's suffered because of this crime?
- There are no parents doing [INAUDIBLE] answer--
GREG ABBOTT: All right.
- --the question.
GREG ABBOTT: So let me answer your question. So your question--
GREG ABBOTT: No, no, I remember it. Short answer, yes. I was misled. I am livid about what happened. I was on this very stage two days ago, and I was telling the public information that had been told to me in a room just a few yards behind where we're located right now. I wrote down hand notes in detail about what everybody in that room told me, in sequential order, about what happened.
And when I came out here on this stage and told the public what happened, it was a recitation of what people in that room told me, whether it be law enforcement officials, or non-law-enforcement officials, whatever the case may be. And as everybody has learned, the information that I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I'm absolutely livid about that.
And here is my expectation. My expectation is that the law enforcement leaders that are leading the investigations, which includes the Texas Rangers and the FBI, they get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty. There are people who deserve answers the most, and those are the families whose lives have been destroyed. They need answers that are accurate. And it is inexcusable that they may have suffered from any inaccurate information whatsoever.
And it is imperative that the leaders of the investigations about exactly what happened get down to the very second of exactly what happened with 100% accuracy and explain it to the public, but most importantly, to the victims who have been devastated.
- Do you support-- do you support a ban of 18 years old buy AR-15s over--
GREG ABBOTT: He had a backup question, and he-- I'm coming to you next.
- The law enforcement is used to the fact that [INAUDIBLE]. Before that [INAUDIBLE].
GREG ABBOTT: My expectation is that, as we speak and every minute going forward, law enforcement is going to earn the trust of the public by doing exactly what they're supposed to do from this point on. And that is making sure that they thoroughly, exhaustively investigate exactly what happened and explain to you, and the public, and the victims of the crime, exactly what happened.
- You think--
GREG ABBOTT: I told this guy I was coming to him next.
- Yes, sir. [INAUDIBLE]. We're all wondering when you're going to call a special session to deal with this, specifically dealing with some riots, so Republicans who join Democrats can ask them for one. And is there going to be any specific legislations drawn out of that? For example, will you roll back some of the liberalizations that you've made in gun ownership and gun usership, such as their so-called constitutional carry? That's a big issue for a lot of people--
GREG ABBOTT: Sure.
- --because people like that man should never have a gun to start with.
GREG ABBOTT: Well, let me answer your second question first, then I'll answer your first question. So in your second question, you talked about the rollback of any of the legislation that I signed this past session. Let's be clear about one thing. None of the laws that I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all. No-- no law that I signed allowed him to get a gun, the gun that he did get. And so, again, there was nothing about the laws from this past session that has any relevancy to the crime that occurred here.
With regard to a special session, let me just say this, and that is, first of all, all options are on the table. Second, most importantly, to your point, do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is, absolutely yes. And there will be laws in multiple different subject areas.
For example, I do fully expect to have every law that we pass in the aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting to be completely revisited. And first, we need to gain the information about exactly what happened at the school, to find out the extent to which those laws were complied with, to the extent that they were not complied with, to find out what shortcomings allowed this travesty to occur. Then, second, we need to have a discussion and pass laws to make sure that our schools are safer. And the people of Uvalde, but the people of Texas, deserve that.
Second, as I was discussing two days ago, you can expect robust discussion. And my hope is, laws pass that I will sign, addressing health care in this state. There is an array of health care issues that we face as a state in general. But there are an array of health care issues that relate to those who commit gun crimes, and in particular, those need to be addressed, whether it be the health care issues that I talked publicly here with the mayor about two days ago and that would affect the community in general, or whether it be laws that address the challenges that are now surfacing, that this killer had in his life, that lead to someone doing what he did.
And then there will be all other kinds of issues. But there will be-- there will be committees formed. There will be meetings held. There will be proposals that will be derived, many of which will lead to laws that will be passed in the state of Texas, because let me make one thing perfectly clear. The status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. We're not going to be here, and talking about it, and-- and do nothing about it. We will be looking for the best laws that we can get passed to make our communities and schools safer.
GREG ABBOTT: Go ahead.
- --allow for [INAUDIBLE].
- --a follow-up-- a follow-up I have on that is pretty simple. For universal background checks, we have to see what are the laws that many other states propose for that. The other thing [INAUDIBLE] today is, you can spend a hundred billion dollars on mental health care, but without universal background checks, it's worthless. Somebody gets through, somebody will kill again, and really, how do you plan to stop it [INAUDIBLE] from happening again? And--
GREG ABBOTT: Well, let's be clear about a couple of things that show that these background checks-- if everyone wants to seize upon any particular strategy and just to say, well, well, that's the golden strategy right there, look at what happened in the Santa Fe shooting. A background check had no relevancy whatsoever because the killer took the gun from his parent. Look at what happened in the shooting in Sutherland Springs. There was a background check that was done. It was done in a flawed way that allowed the killer to get a gun.
And so anyone who suggests, well, maybe we should focus on background checks as opposed to mental health, I suggest to you, is mistaken. If there's anybody here who thinks we have perfect health care in this country and this world, they're wrong. If they're anybody who thinks that we can't do more to address mental health care, they're wrong. They can-- we can, and we're going to.
GREG ABBOTT: Go ahead. Go ahead.
GREG ABBOTT: Yes?
- So my question [INAUDIBLE]. I'd like to know what you think [INAUDIBLE] now about what [INAUDIBLE] the process [INAUDIBLE] and understanding that. Why do you make the decision now to [INAUDIBLE] the situation before? And why was [INAUDIBLE]? Why was [INAUDIBLE]?
GREG ABBOTT: What I've been told about that is several things. One is that this is an ongoing investigation and that there have been, obviously, new facts and information service revealed as a result of that investigation that are different today than they were two days ago.
Second, there will be ongoing investigations that detail exactly who knew what when, who was in charge of what strategy, why was that particular strategy employed, why were other strategies not employed. Bottom line would be, why did they not choose the strategy that would have been best to get in there, and to eliminate the killer, and to rescue the children?
GREG ABBOTT: I can't hear you.
GREG ABBOTT: I can't hear you.
- Do you consider a banning--
GREG ABBOTT: Go ahead.
- --those 18 years old buy AR-15s? Governor, please, would you consider? Yes, this is me, Tony [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you.
GREG ABBOTT: Tony, how you doing, man?
- I'm doing great.
GREG ABBOTT: Good.
- [INAUDIBLE] a very respectful way. Governor, would you consider? This is a [INAUDIBLE] 18 years old. Would you consider, please, a ban on 18 years old being able to buy a AR-15? That's all I'm asking.
GREG ABBOTT: So it's my understanding that ever since Texas has been a state, an 18-year-old has had the ability to buy a long gun, a rifle.
- Since 1800.
GREG ABBOTT: Right. And since that time, it seems like it's only been in the past decade or two that we've had school shootings. So for a century and a half, 18-year-olds could buy rifles and we didn't have school shootings, but we do now. Maybe we're focusing our attention on the wrong thing, and we're focusing it on--
- Would you consider rolling [INAUDIBLE]? I'm not doing a political--
GREG ABBOTT: You know--
- My colleagues are asking for a special session. You're getting a letter from Muller. Make a call with the Senate and Democratic [INAUDIBLE]. We've asked for gun control stages. I'm asking you now to bring this back for [INAUDIBLE].
I apologize for interrupting this press conference about the need of this community. I've been here for three days. With all of these elected people, this kind of judge is working to [INAUDIBLE]. The mayor can just help the people. I don't know how to-- [INAUDIBLE] it's the law [INAUDIBLE]. And I know you feel it, too. You have to do something, man. [INAUDIBLE] telling you [INAUDIBLE] and telling you an 18-year-old shouldn't have-- shouldn't have a gun. That's the thing. Call it back, man. Call it back.
GREG ABBOTT: Next question.
GREG ABBOTT: I can't hear you.
GREG ABBOTT: Speak up.
- On that earlier question about the Uvalde [INAUDIBLE] to Pete Arredondo, are you specifically admitting that? And what is the status of his employment? Has he been moved down under investigation?
GREG ABBOTT: So can-- I was unable to hear the first part of your question. Would you restate it?
- On the school's police chief, Pete Arredondo, the gentleman who stopped police going in earlier, is he specifically under investigation? And what is the status of his employment? Has he been moved down, pending investigation? What is the situation?
GREG ABBOTT: OK. So every act by every official involved in this entire process is under the investigation conducted both by the Texas Rangers and by the FBI. Every act of all of those officials will be known, and identified, and explained to the public. But I cannot overemphasize enough, we need to get that information to the families of all these victims, who deserve to know the most. As far as his employment status is concerned, that's something that is beyond my control and I have no knowledge about.
- Last question! Last question!
GREG ABBOTT: Go for it.
- I have a question, man.
GREG ABBOTT: Sure.
- What do you plan to propose [INAUDIBLE] to help some 40 minutes [INAUDIBLE] the classroom? [INAUDIBLE]
DON MCLAUGHLIN: You know, as the governor said, I'm not in law enforcement. I've-- I have not--
- Are you the mayor of the city?
DON MCLAUGHLIN: I'm the mayor of the city, but-- but-- and once we know what took place, what went down, we'll get to the bottom of it and see. I have-- I've been just as confused as you are because, as the governor was, I got the same information that the governor got until yesterday afternoon. I was blown away and again this morning, other information. So I don't have an answer for you yet, but I can tell you, if we need to make changes in that, we will.
- All right.
- Thank you, guys, so much. Thank you! Have a good day.