Mariano Pargas, who was targeted for his response to the deadly Texas school shooting, has stepped down after calling for his resignation.
The Uvalde police officer who led the U.S. city’s police department at a time when it was hesitant to respond to an elementary school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers has resigned, a city spokeswoman said.
Mariano Pargas retired Thursday afternoon after 18 years with the city, according to spokeswoman Gina Eisenberg. He said his breathing was immediate but the city is still processing documents.
Pargas is the second police chief to leave law enforcement in the fall since a shooting in May when hundreds of officers waited more than an hour to check on a gunman in a classroom at Robb Elementary School. His retirement comes after Saturday’s city council meeting decided to fire him.
Pargas was not immediately available for comment. He previously told CNN his lawyer had told him not to speak publicly but that “there’s a lot to say … I’d like to defend myself”.
The city placed Pargas, who ran the department at the time of the shooting because the chief, Daniel Rodriguez, was out of town, on administrative leave in July following a damning report from deputies on police response.
His departure comes days after new records revealed that Pargas was told there were children alive in the classroom by the shooter half an hour before police broke into the room.
In the months after the shooting, federal officials have pressed charges against the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, saying he “made bad decisions” as a local superintendent to avoid gunfire sooner rather than later.
Arredondo was fired in August but said he doesn’t consider himself a supervisor and thinks someone else was responsible for the police force, which eventually grew to about 400 officers.
Audio tapes published by CNN show that while officers were gathering at the school, a dispatcher told Pargas that there were “8 to 9” children still alive in the classroom where the attacker was trapped. Pargas was heard to agree to the statement but more than 30 minutes passed before the intelligence team swooped in and killed the gunman.
Officials say the gunman opened fire minutes after entering the classroom, but it is unclear if any of the children in the room survived.
Corina Camacho, whose son was shot but survived, told The Associated Press that the 11 children were not killed and that their families were trying to get in touch. Children have openly explained that they are playing dead to avoid being seen with the gun.
In addition to Pargas’ resignation and Arredondo’s dismissal, victims’ families and other advocates have called in recent months for the resignation or dismissal of Steve McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Body camera footage, law enforcement investigations and media reports have shown that state police have a larger presence at the scene than the department appeared after the shooting.
91 DPS troopers were among the 376 officers who responded. Seven were investigated from the attack, but McCraw has defended his agency’s actions, saying it “didn’t fail” Uvalde.
At the third meeting of Uvalde’s council of officials, the community asked Pargas to resign. Pargas, who was re-elected to the regional government on November 8, did not attend the meeting, the Uvalde Leader-News reported.
Berlinda Arreola, whose 10-year-old granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed, said Pargas should have done the “right thing” and stopped, according to CNN.
“He was scared that day and he’s scared now, that he couldn’t show his face,” Arreola said.
At a school board meeting that day, Josh Gutierrez was named the Uvalde district’s permanent police chief. Gutierrez has led the handful of officers who have been hired since the shooting. The five officers who were part of the police force have been reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation into their actions that day.
Acting Superintendent Gary Patterson opened the meeting by talking about the courage shown by the families of the victims. Patterson takes over from Hal Harrell, who announced his retirement last month.
Patterson said: “We are respected all over the world because of the way you have done things when things were very difficult.
School district leaders on Wednesday also approved a site for a new school to replace Robb Elementary, choosing to build it next door to another school a few miles away. The board decided months ago to demolish Robb Elementary and on Wednesday recommended the creation of a committee to decide what should be done at the site.