Gutierrez made the remarks at a news conference in Uvalde on Wednesday. He repeated calls for state police director Col. Steve McCraw to resign, and called on Gov. Greg Abbott to pressure McCraw to resign.
“The actions of (the Texas Department of Public Safety) have clearly shown that there has been institutional failure. We’ve clearly all seen by now a conscious disregard for human life, extreme gross negligence, and we’ve seen that no rational first responder would have acted the way these first responders acted,” Gutierrez said.
“Those terms that I just mentioned to you are terms of art in our justice, in our culture, our legal system. And they’re terms of art when you’re talking about being able to bring a lawsuit against anybody.”
The senator went on to say that Texas tort law protects law enforcement officers, who are also covered under qualified immunity. Gutierrez added that part of the rationale for his bill is to “circumvent” the process of seeking a monetary judgment in court.
Referencing a nondisclosure agreement he signed to view documents that have not been made public, Gutierrez commented that the information that the media has published is a “fraction of the police misconduct.”
The senator described three tiers in his bill. The first tier, for households who lost a loved one in the shooting, would be eligible for up to $7.7 million in compensation. The second tier would be up to $2.1 million for injured victims. A third tier for others at the school during the shooting would involve a maximum of $250,000 in damages.
He said the bill is designed to be “punitive” against the State of Texas as well as compensatory for the victims and their family members. The dollar amounts represent the delay of 77 minutes before law enforcement officers killed the perpetrator and the 21 victims of the shooting.
A special committee in the Texas House found “egregiously poor decision making” on the part of law enforcement on the day of the massacre in a preliminary report published this summer.
Gutierrez also commented on the election, telling a reporter that it is “presumptuous” to say Abbott will necessarily win next Tuesday. The senator himself is facing a Republican challenger, Robert Garza.
He said his work during the next legislative session will be focused on the Uvalde shooting. The Legislature will convene on Tuesday, January 10 in the first session since the massacre. Lawmakers can begin filing bills on Monday, November 14.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."