UVALDE, Texas — The Department of Public Safety told Uvalde school leaders an officer the district wanted to employ was subject to a state investigation. Still, UCISD hired the ex-trooper to protect its students.
But the school district fired Crimson Elizondo Thursday after CNN published audio of her saying she would've responded differently to the Robb Elementary shooting if her own son had been inside the school.
Elizondo, then a state trooper, arrived at the campus minutes after the first gunshots. Body camera footage shows she mostly stayed outside the building as other authorities entered the school's hallways.
Hours after the shooting, another trooper asked Elizondo if she had children at Robb. CNN first published body camera footage of the interaction.
“If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside," she responded. "I promise you that.”
In a statement, UCISD said its leaders were "deeply distressed" by the report.
"We sincerely apologize to the victim's families and the greater Uvalde community for the pain that this revelation has caused," the statement reads. "Ms. Elizondo's statement in the audio is not consistent with the district's expectations."
Outside the district's offices Thursday, protesting parents wondered whether school leaders are properly vetting new hires charged with protecting children.
"As much as I appreciate them (firing Elizondo), she shouldn't have been hired in the first place," said Gloria Cazares, whose daughter died in the tragedy. "Somebody should've done a little bit more of an investigation or their background checks or followed up on previous employment."
But records obtained by KENS 5 indicate school leaders did some homework on Elizondo before they employed her.
Lt. Mike Hernandez, acting as the district's police chief, asked DPS on July 26 for information about Elizondo for a pre-employment background investigation.
Two days later, DPS informed Hernandez that Elizondo was subject to an internal investigation for "actions inconsistent with training and department requirements." The inspector general did not specify whether these actions occurred during Elizondo's response to the crisis at Robb.
But CNN reports Elizondo is among seven troopers currently under investigation for their behavior at the school on May 24.
"That school district had full information about the status of the person they chose to go ahead and hire," Gov. Greg Abbott said at a campaign stop Thursday. "It's up to the school district - not DPS, not anybody else - to own up to the poor decision they made."
The same week Hernandez acknowledged he'd received Elizondo's DPS file, which included notice she was under investigation, UCISD superintendent Hal Harrell announced he'd recommended four police officers for employment.
"They're all from out of town and they look like very promising candidates with lots of years of experience," he told the school board and concerned parents on August 8.
Three weeks later, he announced three of the candidates had accepted the school district's job offer. Again, Harrell told meeting attendees these candidates were not local.
The claim served as a potential selling point for parents. Victims' families expressed frustration that hundreds of officers, mostly working around the rural county, responded to the shooting but waited 77 minutes to barge in a classroom to kill the gunman.
"These are officers that are outside Uvalde that have applied from other communities and cities to move here to serve Uvalde," Harrell said on August 29.
The superintendent never named the candidates he made reference to, but Elizondo was listed as one of two new police department employees on the school's website a week later.
Despite Harrell's pitch, property records indicate Elizondo has owned a home in Uvalde since 2020. She also patrolled the region's highways for DPS during that time.
Aside from the pending investigation, Elizondo's record with DPS was clean. The trooper's supervisors said she met or exceeded expectations in every competence measure.
"Trooper (Elizondo) has the ability to see what needs to be done when performing her job duties," one manager wrote in an evaluation, calling her an "area leader in criminal enforcement for 2021."
The school district quietly announced Thursday that an independent investigator is evaluating the actions of the four current school police officers who responded to Robb on May 24, including Hernandez.
Other analysts are conducting an organizational review to ensure the school's police department runs efficiently.