May 31, 2022

Uvalde mayor discusses aftermath of Robb Elementary School shooting tragedy 5/30/22 Transcript

Uvalde mayor discusses aftermath of Robb Elementary School shooting tragedy 5/30/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsDon McLaughlinUvalde mayor discusses aftermath of Robb Elementary School shooting tragedy 5/30/22 Transcript

Don McLaughlin, Mayor of Uvalde, talks about the mass shooting tragedy and the future of Robb Elementary on 5/30/22. Read the transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Interviewer: (00:01)
Mayor, thank you, because I know this is very difficult for you. But I do want to ask you first, talk about this community. And I’ve just seen the grief and the hurt and the pain in everyone here.

Don McLaughlin: (00:12)
It is. The hurt, the pain, it’s tough for all of us. 19 children lost their lives. Senseless, shouldn’t have happened. Two teachers, and then the teacher’s husband has a heart attack and dies after that, now leaving four children without parents. It’s heartbreaking. My heart breaks every day. My heart’s broken, our community’s heart’s broken. But the one thing I will tell you about our community, it’s a strong community. I’m not going to say we’ll get over it, we’ll get through it, because let me just tell you something about Uvalde. Let’s just say that a family has a loved one that dies and they don’t have the money for the funeral or whatever. This community will go out and they will start having fundraisers, they’ll sell barbecue plates, Mexican plates, whatever they can do to raise the money for their family.

Don McLaughlin: (01:08)
Same thing, medical expenses. One has cancer and they can’t meet the bills or the insurance may cover it, but it won’t cover the family traveling to the hospital in San Antonio, this community will go together, they will hold fundraisers, they will have barbecues, raffles, whatever to help their neighbor out. Uvalde has always been … That’s one of the things I love about Uvalde. This community will come together and we will come together on this. This is something that we will never get over, but we’ll get through it.

Interviewer: (01:38)
Yeah. And I know that you said when I walked in, it’s the worst unimaginable thing could ever happen and you never think it would happen in your own backyard.

Don McLaughlin: (01:50)
I would’ve never dreamed it. You see the news, you think, “Wow, that happened somewhere else, never in Uvalde.” Like I said, pretty much everybody knows everybody in town. Maybe I don’t know some of them or so forth, but pretty much everybody knows. And if you don’t know them, you know somebody that knows them or so forth. But we would’ve never imagined this in Uvalde ever happening in a thousand years. I hope we can learn from this and we hope it never happens anywhere ever again, ever.

Interviewer: (02:22)
And you may not be able to answer this, but how are the families? I’m sure you’ve met with them.

Don McLaughlin: (02:31)
I have not. I have met with two or three of the families, but look, out of respect, I’m not going to go knock on these people’s doors. The last thing they needed to have is me knocking on their door. I want them to know I’m here to support them. I will be here when all of this is gone. I’m going to hold the state accountable. We had a meeting. They promised us that we’d have counselors and grievance counselors and that here, and I can promise you, I will hold the state accountable to make sure that that’s available to these families.

Don McLaughlin: (03:04)
But the ones I have met with, I’ve cried with, I’ve prayed with, told them how sorry I was, but I do not want to … Pardon my deal here, but it’s a circus enough with all the reporters here and that’s the one thing I would ask with the press, please quit knocking on these people’s door and let them grieve. The last thing they need is you knocking on their door to ask them questions. Let them take this time. If you want to ask them questions, come back in a week or so, but not now. And that’s happened. That’s happened.

Interviewer: (03:42)
Sorry. Mayor, I do want to ask you. You said you want to hold the state accountable. But you also requested the DOJ, and we want to stress review of what law enforcement’s alleged lack of response. What would you like to say in response to-

Don McLaughlin: (04:00)
Well, look, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers are in charge of the investigation. I’m not law enforcement, so I’m not privy to that. But look, I was at the briefing that Governor Abbott got. The next day, I saw a press conference from DPS, and the next day I saw a press conference from Colonel McGraw. Well, every press conference, something has changed in different things. I’m not doubting DPS or Texas Rangers. I think they will do a thorough and efficient job, but I would like to have an outside set of eyes to look over the whole thing and review it. Because if there’s holes in it or we made a mistake, I want to be as transparent as we can. I want to make sure that we can let everybody know what happened in our community so that other towns can better prepare for this. Because sometimes it’s better to have that outside set of eyes looking at something because these guys are consumed with it. Now, you’re going to bring a fresh set of eyes after the fact to review what they’ve looked at.

Interviewer: (05:07)
Yeah. And-

Don McLaughlin: (05:09)
I’m sorry that phone keeps ringing. I should have put it on-

Interviewer: (05:11)
Oh, is that your phone?

Don McLaughlin: (05:11)
Yeah. Can I turn it [inaudible 00:05:12].

Interviewer: (05:12)

Don McLaughlin: (05:18)
I’ll put it on vibrate and throw it on forward.

Interviewer: (05:25)
It’s okay. And I know you can’t speak on the details. We’ve already talked about that. But you said you wanted to clarify a few details in the press release, and one of them is Pete Arredondo’s position on city council. If you want to comment on what you’ve written here.

Don McLaughlin: (05:39)
Sure. Pete was duly elected by the people in his district. And there’s nothing in the city charter, there’s nothing in the Texas election code, there’s nothing that says that … He was elected, and there’s nothing I can do to change that, not that I want to. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll say I don’t want to, but he was duly elected and that’s something Pete and I’m sure the people in his district will come to terms with.

Interviewer: (06:17)
I think we covered everything on here. I do want to ask you … Well, let’s ask this first. President Biden was here yesterday. You’d never think the President would be in your community for such tragic circumstances. But what was the response from the community? You met him at Garner Field and traveled with him all day.

Don McLaughlin: (06:41)
Well, yeah, I met him at Garner Field. But our community, look, that’s the President of the United States, whether we agree or disagree on policy, whatever, he’s the Commander in Chief, he’s the leader of our country, and he deserves all the respect. And for him and his wife to take the time to come to this community, and he went out to the center out there and he spent three, four hours with these families visiting with each and every one of them. I spoke to him on the tarmac. He was very courteous, very polite, and I have the utmost respect for him to come down here and do that. And I think 99% of the people in this community feel the same way.

Interviewer: (07:19)
And I know when he arrived at Robb Elementary School, we couldn’t see, but we heard the applause when he and the First Lady were walking over to the growing memorial there. So it sounded like the community was welcoming them.

Don McLaughlin: (07:33)
We are. It’s another thing. The one thing the President told me, he said, “I’m not here to politicize anything.” And that was his words to me. And if you look yesterday, they took no press conferences yesterday. So I respect him for that.

Interviewer: (07:51)
And I know, personally, I found it very moving when they were at the memorial and stopping-

Don McLaughlin: (07:56)
Touching each picture.

Interviewer: (07:58)

Don McLaughlin: (07:58)
Yeah, it was.

Interviewer: (07:59)
How was that for you?

Don McLaughlin: (07:59)
It was moving. Like I said, it showed that it came from here, came from their heart.

Interviewer: (08:06)
Yeah. I was just out there earlier. The crowds are growing every day.

Don McLaughlin: (08:11)
I have not been to the Robb. I have been to the one at the square here and I’ve been by the one at Robb. I haven’t actually stopped at it, but I’ve been to the one that they have down here at the plaza, in the center of the [inaudible 00:08:25], and it’ll bring you to tears just to see what’s there. It’s very moving. Like I said, it’s for this tragic loss of these young kids and these two teachers. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking.

Interviewer: (08:42)
And we keep seeing, now, Uvalde Strong. You never thought that would become the meaning here. But what does it mean to this community and you, as the mayor, to have so much outpouring of love and support from not only your surrounding border counties, but from the nation, from the world, people are reaching out?

Don McLaughlin: (09:00)
Well. It’s moving. It’s very moving. Some of the poems that people have sent me that I’ve tried to pass on to make sure the school district gets, has been moving. The people who have written, they’re touching, they’re emotional. The love that we’ve seen throughout the world and the country that comes in every day is continuing more and more and more. And it’s moving. I’m just so sad it’s under these circumstances.

Interviewer: (09:29)
As a lot of the people that have come to visit to see the memorial, especially today on this holiday, those crowds will start to move out. We’re seeing some of our national media move out. What’s your focus from here? Because this is your community and sure we’ll still be here. But where’s the process moving forward? Because we don’t know how long it’ll take to heal.

Don McLaughlin: (09:52)
Well, hopefully with our faith in God above, we’ll come together there. But this community, like I said, is a strong community. We will come together. And like I said, our first and foremost is to make sure that those families have whatever counseling they want or need, the victims, whatever counseling they want and they need. But also, there were 620 kids at that school. Those kids are going to need support too. And there’s going to be members of this community. I spoke with a man yesterday and he was just in tears on the plaza yesterday. Moving forward, we’re going to make sure that Uvalde has what it … that we have the resources that we need and we will be here. As one reporter said, “Well, you’re going to have to live with this stigma all your life.” We might. We can’t change that. But we don’t have to let that define us here in Uvalde.

Interviewer: (10:48)
Exactly. And one other question, and you may not be able to answer this, but I know a lot of people have been asking about the school building. Are there any plans? I know it’s still so new.

Don McLaughlin: (10:58)
Sure. I think the consensus is … I can’t speak for the Uvalde consolidator, but I’ve had conversations with him. I’ve had conversation with Judge Mitchell. I know Dr. Harold yesterday had a conversation with the President about it. But I don’t think anybody’s plans are but to tear that building down. And it needs to be torn down. I would never expect a child to have to ever walk in those doors ever, ever again. That building needs to be gone, taken away and gone.

Interviewer: (11:30)
And Mayor, we’re talking about the counseling services for the survivors and the victims and their families. But what you were saying, that there needs to be another focus on counseling and mental health in this community aside from that. Can you talk about why you feel that’s such a need here?

Don McLaughlin: (11:45)
Sure. Look, I’ve been mayor going on my ninth year, fixing to start my ninth year. Since I’ve been mayor, we’ve had I believe it’s four young children committed suicide in Uvalde. We have no mental help services here. There’s one lady or a small group that services six counties. Two people. We can’t have it. And the problem is, why I’m fighting so hard for this mental health deal, just like this young man. So far, they say there’s no signs or anything, but they’re starting to find social media page that he had that shows some very disturbing things on it. But what if this kid did have those problems and we could have caught this six months ago, a year ago, or even two years ago and got him some help and got him some counseling and that moving forward?

Don McLaughlin: (12:38)
And that’s why I’m pushing for this mental health deal. And that’s why we’ve donated this land for a mental health hospital. Because if we can get this mental health hospital built here, it won’t just serve Uvalde. Actually, 44 counties will benefit from that. 44 rural Texas counties. Because right now there’s 28 million plus people in Texas. Do you know how many mental health hospital beds there are a day available? No more than 1,000 in the whole state of Texas. And that’s sad.

Don McLaughlin: (13:05)
Look, guns play a role in this too. I’m not downplaying that either. And I don’t want to get into a Second Amendment or the whole guns deal, but it took a person to pull the trigger of that gun. And so we need to address both issues. We need both parties to come together and say, look, let’s sit down at the table and come up with common sense rules and get rid of this my way or the highway attitude on both sides, Republican and Democrat, because that’s not what we elected you for. We elect you to go up there and sit down at a table and work together and come up with common sense rules.

Don McLaughlin: (13:38)
But going back to the mental health again, if we had these facilities and these services for people, then we might have prevented this. We might. And hopefully, we can catch and never happen again. But for so long now, every time there’s something, they talk about mental health. They talk about mental health. Now, whether he did or didn’t, but I heard the other day that, I’ve gotten enough hate emails on this, that the Governor sliced $211 million from mental health services. If he did, I’m not aware of it. And that very well may be the fact. I’m not saying it’s not. But that’s the problem we talk about. We’re going to address it. We’re going to address it. And we keep kicking the can down the road and it’s time to quit kicking the can down the road and let’s do something about it.

Interviewer: (14:24)
And the property that you’re referring to, so that’s in city or is it county?

Don McLaughlin: (14:29)
It’s outside. The city owns it. It’s right out by the Fairplex.

Interviewer: (14:31)

Don McLaughlin: (14:32)
We’ve donated seven and a half acres there. And if they need more, we’ll give them more. We own 169 acres there.

Interviewer: (14:37)
And how will that be funded? State funding?

Don McLaughlin: (14:40)
No, we have to raise the money to build this mental health hospital. Now, we’re looking at a scaled back one because we asked the federal government for the money to fund it or whatever, the state will fund the running of it, but we have to come up with 26 to $28 million to build it. And we don’t have that kind of money here in Uvalde. But if we could build that, so many counties would benefit. The nine county region that we’re in, the COG, again, the acronym of what they call it, but the nine counties, every county judge, every mayor is signed on to build this hospital here and send it to the federal government and to the state.

Interviewer: (15:19)
And you’re talking about surrounding counties?

Don McLaughlin: (15:20)
Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am.

Interviewer: (15:26)
What are short term solutions? Because that could be years down the road. Do you have any in the next year, or the next few months even?

Don McLaughlin: (15:33)
Well, hopefully according to the Governor, he’s going to make sure that we have more mental health people in our community to help that we can address things. Right now, we have a person that we know has problems, we send them to the hospital and they get evaluated and they’re turned loose, they’re turned over, they’re not a danger to themselves or something. Well, it’s obvious that person needs help, but we’re just putting them right back on the street. And locking them up in jail is not the answer either, because all that does is aggravate the situation.

Interviewer: (16:03)
Currently, with what you have right now, devoting more dollars to mental health services here in Uvalde, the city of Uvalde and Uvalde county, do the city and the county have the funding to make that sustainable?

Don McLaughlin: (16:18)
No, we don’t. Right now, we’re stretched thin as it is, trying to run our city budget, streets, sewer, water. That’s a constant battle every day. And same thing with the county, we don’t. Then you have the school district with the taxes that are there. We don’t have the money. We’re going to have to start to try finding the money or seeing what we do. But at the same token, there’s only so much in taxes we can raise on our citizens, but then becomes unaffordable for them.

Interviewer: (16:45)
So what do you do?

Don McLaughlin: (16:47)
I’m hoping that we can get our government to come up and stand up. Like I said, we give billions of dollars, and I’m not talking about Ukraine, but I’m talking about to other countries in South America, that we’re going to solve this problem or whatever, but we don’t give any … We should take some of that money and spend it on our own citizens in our own country because we’re giving it to countries that don’t even like us.

Interviewer: (17:10)
And just knowing these communities in this area, do you feel that it might be a challenge if you were to have the funding for more mental health services here? Do you think it would be easy to get the community to buy in?

Don McLaughlin: (17:19)
I think this community-

Interviewer: (17:20)
Now, probably more than ever, but-

Don McLaughlin: (17:22)
I think, even before, that’s one of the things when I ran the last time was talking about bringing this mental health hospital here. That’s how long ago we’ve been working on it. And I believe this community was for it then. Look at the veterans we have here that they have to send to San Antonio and they have to get an appointment. Sometimes the appointment’s a month or two months out. But if that facility was here, they wouldn’t have to travel to San Antonio and that. So do I think this community has bought in? Yes. I think that the community’s in. I think all the surrounding communities and counties are in, because it’s a constant battle for all of us.

Interviewer: (17:55)
Yeah. And just going back to the next few weeks. It’s going to be planning funerals for 19 children, two heroic teachers. How do you get through that?

Don McLaughlin: (18:11)
Every funeral opens the wound again and the funerals start tomorrow, and the last one I think is June the 16th. Again, we’ll come together as a community. We’ll be there. We’ll try to do all that we can for these families and be there. And nobody should have to deal with this kind of tragedy to deal with this. So all I can tell you is the community will come together even stronger to do what we can to be there.

Interviewer: (18:40)

Don McLaughlin: (18:40)
I wish I had a magic wand or a clock that I could turn back the time. I do. But we will be there for these families and get through them. It will be tough every single day.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.