Texas mental health services hadn’t reached out to Uvalde before she was shot, as teacher says gunman ‘scared’ her

Texas mental health services hadn’t reached out to Uvalde before she was shot, as teacher says gunman ‘scared’ her

Texas mental health services hadn’t reached out to Uvalde before she was shot, as teacher says gunman ‘scared’ her

Texas mental health services set up after the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting still failed to reach Uvalde before last month’s shooting heard lawmakers on Wednesday — when a teacher revealed the gunman “scared” her and “dressed up as a school” shooter” leading up to the attack.

dr. Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium David Lakey testified before the Texas Senate Wednesday during a second day of public hearings over the Uvalde mass shooting.

He told lawmakers that more than three years after its launch, the Uvalde Consolidated School District, where 21 people were massacred last month, was still not part of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium.

The consortium was formed in 2019 in response to the Santa Fe High School school shooting to intervene when students show signs of mental health problems to try to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

On May 18, 2018, 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis entered his high school wearing a trench coat and t-shirt that read “Born to kill” and opened fire on his fellow students and teachers.

Eight students and two teachers were killed in the attack.

Pagourtzis, now 21, is still on trial for the massacre as he has been found mentally unfit for 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 problems and provide them with the health care they need.

The program includes in-school behavioral telehealth services for students.

Four years after the Santa Fe High School massacre — on May 24 — 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and shot and killed 19 students, aged just nine to 11, and two teachers.

And — four years after the Santa Fe mass shooting — the telehealth service is still only available to about 40 percent of Texas college students.

dr. Lakey and Dr. Laurel Williams, also from the consortium, testified that the rollout of the services had been challenging due to difficulties in hiring the necessary staff.

The services had not reached Uvalde, they confirmed.

The revelation that mental health services in Uvalde were inactive comes after it emerged that a teacher was “afraid” of Ramos and found himself “dressing up as a school shooter” in the months leading up to the mass shooting.

dr. David Lakey and Dr. Laurel Williams testify at second public hearing on Uvalde in Texas Senate

(AP)

Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS), testified at the Texas Senate hearing Tuesday that the teacher told investigators that Ramos was “the student who scared her the most.”

“We had a teacher who said she was always worried about him,” he said.

“He was the one student who scared her the most. We discussed, as 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 police response to the May 24 massacre, said about 500 to 700 people in the small town had been interviewed from 17,000 so far in the month since the mass shooting.

At least six of those people spoke of concerns about Ramos’ behavior, including animal cruelty cases, and before the massacre, images of the gunman carrying a bag of dead cats had been posted online.

Ramos also had a significant truancy problem, occasionally skipping school from fourth grade.

Despite several people being aware of his troubling behaviour, Mr McCraw said there were no reports to police before May 24.

dr. Lakey testified on Wednesday that “interventions” could have been made after Ramos exhibited troubling behavior.

“Several times in that person’s life could have been intervened,” said the mental health expert.

dr. Lakey said mental health services are “part of the solution” when such student behavior is noticed.

He said he would like to see teachers refer students who exhibited Ramos’ behavior to mental health services in the early days of his troubling behavior.

He said the mental health program could have intervened years ago when Ramos started skipping school in the fourth grade.

“Where we want to go is when a person in the fourth grade is like this and a teacher says ‘this isn’t right, I’m seeing worrying signs’ that they’re making that referral [to mental health experts through the consortium],” he said.

He added: “It is possible to reach the next person before they get to that state.”

The Texas Senate bipartisan commission has been tasked by Governor Gregg Abbott to investigate the events of the May 24 massacre and make legislative recommendations to the state.

The Republican governor has been quick to blame mental health problems for the Uvalde massacre and not the availability of firearms in his state.

Ramos was able to legally purchase the AR-15 used in the attack just days after turning 18.

Abbott has claimed that the massacre demonstrated the need to “do better with mental health”.

However, Mr Abbott also cut $211 million from the State Department overseeing mental health programs a month before the massacre.

Graphic shows sequence of events during Robb Elementary School massacre

(Associated Press)

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard damning testimony from Mr. McCraw, who described the law enforcement response to the mass shooting as an “abject failure.”

Mr McCraw said there were enough armed officers on the scene to stop the gunman just three minutes after the shooting started.

But instead, law enforcement waited another hour, 14 minutes and eight seconds — resulting in a total delay of 77 minutes from the start of the shooting — before a border patrol entered the classrooms and shot dead gunman Salvador Ramos.

Craw blamed the delayed response that day on the scene commander – Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo – who said he was the “only one” stopping officers from ending the active shooting situation earlier.

“Three minutes after the subject entered the western corridor, there were sufficient numbers of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate distractions and neutralize the subject,” he said.

“The only thing that kept a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on site, who decided to put the lives of officers before the lives of children.

“The officers had guns. The kids had none. The officers had bulletproof vests. The kids had none.

“The officers have been trained. The subject had none.”

Mr McCraw, who is leading a state investigation into law enforcement’s response, said Chief Arredondo waited for radios, firearms and keys instead of sending officers to the two adjacent classrooms where dying students and teachers waited to be rescued.

Chief Arredondo has previously said that much of the delay was due to 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 shows no officer has tried the door handle to see if it was open.

Even with the door locked, within minutes police had access to a crowbar that could have been used to force the door, he testified.

At a city council meeting on Tuesday night, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin criticized Mr. McCraw for his comments, noting that several DPS officers were also present that day and that he was trying to divert attention from his department.

He accused the TDPS chief of continuing to “lie, leak, mislead or misinform” to distance his own department from the botched response.

“Each briefing he omits the number of his own officers and Rangers who were on the scene 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 provide factual answers to the families of this community”.

A memorial outside Robb Elementary School honoring the 21 victims who died in the mass shooting

(AP)

The Uvalde City Council also voted unanimously at the meeting to refuse Chief Arredondo’s leave as a councillor, paving the way for him to potentially be removed from the role, while the victims’ families are also calling on him to resign from the police department.

Families and community members are growing increasingly frustrated with what they feel are civil servants’ opposition in the aftermath of the massacre.

Official accounts and timelines are increasingly changing, requests to release information to the public have been blocked and the staggering 77-minute delay is said to have claimed the lives of victims.

A teacher died in an ambulance, while three of the children died after reaching hospitals.

The massacre — one of the deadliest school shootings in US history — has also sparked renewed calls for tougher gun laws in Congress.

Late Tuesday, the Senate came forward with a bipartisan package of narrow gun security measures.

The bill includes expanding background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and more money for school safety and mental health resources.

However, it does not include the assault weapons ban that many are calling for after the recent attacks used high-capacity rifles to kill multiple people.

The Uvalde massacre came just 10 days after 10 black people were shot and killed 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 that they had legally purchased.