'He Had the Chance to Go in and Save the Children'

Juan Maldonado is first Texas state trooper to be fired over his actions during Uvalde mass shooting
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2022 8:30 AM CDT
First Texas State Trooper Fired Over Uvalde Response
Robb Elementary School sits idle on Sept. 6 in Uvalde, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Juan Maldonado was one of the first officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to arrive on the scene of the Uvalde school shooting in May. Now, he's the first state trooper fired in the aftermath of the massacre that killed 19 students and two teachers, after a completed investigation. "The department can confirm Sgt. Juan Maldonado was served with termination papers today," a DPS spokesperson tells ABC News. Maldonado, a 23-year veteran of the department and a public information officer for the region, is one of seven DPS members whose actions from May 24 have been investigated, with the other probes pending.

Maldonado is said to have been the highest-ranking state trooper to first arrive at Robb Elementary School, with bodycam footage from the Uvalde Police Department showing him outside the school within four minutes of the shooting, reports the Texas Tribune. That video showed Maldonado hovering inside an exterior school doorway and not heading inside, even after a Uvalde police officer stumbled outside after being grazed by a bullet, per the New York Times. According to investigative records seen by the Tribune, Maldonado told investigators he was concentrating at the time on maintaining the perimeter of one of the school's exterior buildings, and that had he been given the order to head inside, he would have.

The Times notes that for months after the shooting, the focus centered on whether local police had botched the response. Pete Arredondo, who headed up the town's school police force, was the incident commander at the scene, and criticism to how he handled things led to his firing in August. But a recent Times visual investigation found delays by law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including DPS, which had more than 90 officers at the shooting scene. Some family members of those massacred say that Maldonado's longtime ties to Uvalde made what happened even worse. "He had the chance to go in and save the children and teachers of a community that he knew so well," a relative of Amerie Jo Garza, one of the children killed in the shooting, tells ABC. (More Uvalde mass shooting stories.)

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