Texas mental health services set up after the 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe still hadn’t reached Uvalde before last month’s shooting, lawmakers learned on Wednesday – as a teacher revealed the shooter had “scared” him and started “dressing like a school”. shooter” before the attack.
Dr. David Lakey, Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, testified before the Texas Senate on Wednesday in a second day of public hearings into the mass shooting in Uvalde.
He told lawmakers that the Uvalde Consolidated School District, where 21 people were massacred last month, was still not part of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium more than three years after it was launched.
The consortium was launched in 2019 in response to the Santa Fe High School shooting in Santa Fe with the goal of trying to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
On May 18, 2018, a 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, entered his high school wearing a trench coat and a t-shirt that read “Born to kill” and opened fire on his classmates. and teachers.
Eight students and two teachers were killed in the attack.
Mr Pagourtzis, now 21, has still not stood trial for the massacre as he has been found mentally unfit to stand trial three times and is being held in a mental health facility.
In response to the massacre, Texas state lawmakers launched the $100 million Mental Health Consortium to help identify students with mental health issues and provide them with the health care they need.
The program includes in-school behavioral telehealth services for students.
However, four years after the mass shooting in Santa Fe, telehealth service is only available to about 40% of Texas students.
Dr. Lakey and Dr. Laurel Williams, also members of the consortium, testified that the deployment of services had been a challenge due to difficulties in hiring the necessary workforce.
The revelation comes after it emerged a teacher had been ‘scared’ of shooter Salvador Ramos and noticed he had started ‘dressing like a school shooter’ in the months leading up to the shooting massive.
Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) Director Steve McCraw testified during Tuesday’s hearing in the Texas Senate that the teacher told investigators that Ramos “was the student who made him the most fear”.
“We had a teacher who said she always worried about him,” he said.
“He was the one student who scared him the most. We discussed, like I mentioned earlier, last year he started dressing like a school shooter, started acting like a school shooter.
Mr McCraw, who is leading an investigation into the police response to the May 24 massacre, said around 500 to 700 people in the small town of 17,000 had so far been interviewed in the month that s elapsed since the mass shooting.
At least six of those people raised concerns about Ramos’ behavior, including instances of animal cruelty, with images of the shooter carrying a bag of dead cats being posted online ahead of the massacre.
Ramos also had a significant truancy problem, occasionally skipping school from the fourth year.
However, although several people are aware of his disturbing behavior, Mr McCraw said there was no record of him being reported to law enforcement before May 24.
Dr Lakey testified on Wednesday that “interventions” could have been made after Ramos displayed disturbing behavior.
“Many times in the life of this individual there could have been an intervention,” the mental health expert said.
Dr Lakey said mental health services are ‘part of the solution’ when such concerning student behavior is noticed.
He said he would like to see teachers refer students displaying Ramos’ behavior for mental health care in the early days of his disturbing behavior.
He said that, as part of the mental health program, an intervention could have been made years ago when Ramos started truant in the fourth grade.
“Where we want to go is when an individual is like that in fourth grade and a teacher says ‘it’s not right, I see worrying signals’ that they’re making that reference [to mental health experts through the consortium],” he said.
He added: “It is possible to reach the next person earlier before they get to this state.”
Four years after the Santa Fe High School massacre, Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old gunman, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and shot and killed 19 students between the ages of 9 and 11 and two teachers.
On Tuesday, the Senate committee heard damning testimony from Mr McCraw who described law enforcement’s response to the mass shooting as a “dismal failure”.
Mr McCraw said there were enough armed officers at the scene to arrest the shooter just three minutes after the shooting began.
But, instead, law enforcement waited another hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds – resulting in a total delay of 77 minutes since the start of the shooting – before a patrol unit border enters classrooms and shoots gunman Salvador Ramos.
Mr Craw placed the blame for the late response on the shoulders of the on-scene commander that day – Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo – saying he was the ‘only thing’ preventing officers to end the active fire situation early.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the western corridor, there were a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor, to isolate, distract and incapacitate the subject,” he said.
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to put the lives of the officers before those of the children.
“The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had bulletproof vests. The children had none.
“The agents have undergone training. Subject had none.
Mr McCraw, who is leading a state investigation into the law enforcement response, said Chief Arredondo waited for radios, guns and keys rather than dispatching officers to the two adjoining classrooms where dying students and teachers waited to be rescued.
Chief Arredondo previously said much of the delay was due to him waiting for the keys to the classroom door.
This was disputed by Mr McCraw who said the investigation so far indicates the door was unlocked but surveillance footage reveals no officer tried the door handle to see if it was open.
Even though the door was locked, law enforcement had access within minutes to a crowbar tool that could have been used to pry the door open, he testified.
The bipartisan Texas Senate Committee was tasked by Governor Gregg Abbott with investigating the events of the May 24 massacre and making legislative recommendations to the state.
During a town council meeting on Tuesday evening, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin criticized Mr McCraw for his comments, pointing out that several DPS officers were also at the scene that day and that he was trying to divert the attention of his department.
He accused the TDPS chief of continuing to “lie, disclose, mislead or misrepresent information” in order to steer his own department away from the failed response.
“At each briefing, he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers who were there that day,” he said.
He accused Mr McCraw of having “an agenda” which is “not to present a full report on what happened and to give factual answers to the families of this community”.
Uvalde City Council also voted unanimously at the meeting to deny Chief Arredondo a leave of absence as a council member, paving the way for his potential ousting from his role as the families of the victims call him also to resign from the police. department.
Families and community members are increasingly frustrated by what they perceive as obstruction by the authorities following the massacre.
Official accounts and deadlines are increasingly changing, requests for public disclosure of information have been blocked, and the staggering 77-minute delay is said to have cost victims their lives.
A teacher died in an ambulance while three of the children died after reaching hospitals.
The massacre – one of the deadliest school shootings in American history – also renewed calls for tougher gun control laws in Congress.
Late Tuesday, the Senate moved forward with a bipartisan set of narrow-gun safety measures.
The bill includes expanding background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and more money for school safety and mental health resources.
However, that does not include the ban on assault weapons that many are calling for, after high-capacity rifles were used in recent attacks to kill several people.
The Uvalde massacre came just 10 days after 10 black people were gunned down by a self-proclaimed white supremacist at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
In both shootings, the 18-year-old suspects used semi-automatic rifles they had legally purchased.