Uvalde, TEXAS – Though it was a packed commissioners courtroom at the Uvalde County Courthouse on Wednesday morning, one commissioner was missing from his seat -- Precinct 2 Commissioner Mariano Pargas, who was re-elected on Nov. 8.
Pargas was also the interim Uvalde police chief during the shooting at Robb Elementary that killed 19 students and two teachers. He was suspended during the summer after a report revealed failures by law enforcement.
His absence marked the first since the election.
Pargas is once again under scrutiny after CNN’s report this week that shows he was aware that children were possibly still alive in the classroom where the gunman remained for 77 minutes.
His absence did not come as a surprise to families of the shooting victims or to Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell.
“I was told prior to the meeting that he may not show up. I was not officially notified, but I was kind of given … advance notice that he might not show up,” Mitchell said.
Pressure for Pargas to be removed as a county commissioner has intensified following the release of the 911 recordings.
“The process of removing a county commissioner (or) any elected official on a county level is that a petition has to be filed in district court,” Mitchell said. The petition can be filed by any individual at a district court. “It would be a process through the district court where a trial would be held in the district court. The commissioners court has no authority to remove a commissioner or any other elected official,” Mitchell said.
While families inside the commissioner’s courtroom called for Pargas to step down, another top law enforcement official was pressed for answers outside.
Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco was asked by reporters if he thought his response on May 24 was adequate.
“Yeah, I do,” Nolasco said.
The sheriff refused to answer questions about his exact actions at Robb Elementary.
“No response,” Nolasco repeatedly said.
“(I’m) not talking about the investigation. I’m talking about your message to your community that you serve. Are there literally no words, no comment?,” KSAT 12 reporter Alicia Barrera asked.
“My sincere condolences go out to the family. I felt their loss. One of my deputies lost a child. So it hit home. Yes, it did hit home. So my condolences, my sincere condolences go out to the family,” Nolasco said.
“And are you frustrated that they don’t get any answers yet?” Barrera asked.
“Yes, there’s some frustration, but whenever you’re investigating things, it takes its proper channels,” Nolasco said.
Reporters then asked Pargas if he thought the way he handled the scene was correct. “Mm-hmm,” Nolasco said.
When asked why he has remained silent and not spoken to families about what he witnessed, Nolasco cited the ongoing investigation.
“There’s an investigation that’s going on. I’ve cooperated with DPS. I’ve given my statement, and I’ve been told I can’t comment anymore,” Nolasco said.
“So, who are you being advised by to not speak?” Barrera asked.
“That’s it, guys,” Nolasco said as he tried to avoid further questioning. “Again, you don’t know everything. There’s a lot that happened.”
“Tell us what we don’t know, sir,” another reporter said.
Nolasco later said, “Y’all don’t care about the families. You are here for your ratings, that’s all.”
However some of those present including, Jesse Rizo, uncle of Jackie Cazares, does not agree.
“I’m glad that it happened. I’m glad that the cameras were on him. He’s got a lot of answers to provide. You know, there’s a lot of speculation,” Rizo said.
Rizo does not agree Nolasco’s response was adequate.
“Absolutely not. Try explaining that to the people that have their children at the cemetery,” Rizo said.
Nolasco has insisted he was not the incident commander on the day of the shooting.