An employee with the Department of Public Safety in Texas stirred outrage online after appearing to suggest that he would be unable to hug his children that evening due to the investigation into the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde.
The comment, made during a press conference on Thursday by Victor Escalon, Regional Director for the Department of Public Safety in South Texas, quickly went viral across social media.
“I’m a father. I can’t go home tonight and hug my kids. That hurts,” Escalon said. “The members behind me—our family members. Their kids. It’s tough. It’s hard.”
The comment was seen by many as insensitive given how many parents had been affected by the tragedy, which saw an 18-year-old shoot and kill at least 19 students and two adults.
“You compared yourself not being able to hug your kids tonight, to people never being able to hug their kids again period?” one Twitter user asked. “To people who have to bury their kids? To people who have gone through the most traumatic thing?”
The Daily Dot reached out to the Texas Department of Safety to inquire about Escalon’s statement but did not hear back by press time.
The remark was especially troubling in light of reports that law enforcement waited outside of the school for over 40 minutes as parents begged them to intervene. Parents who attempted to reach their children were held back and restrained.
“Not being able to go home and hug your kids is not the same as not being able to EVER hug your kid again,” another user said. “They really don’t care.”
Even more concerning, police also appeared to admit that some officers did up entering the school in an attempt to get their own children.
“It’s not super explicit but this does sound like Texas DPS spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez confirming that cops entered the school to save their own children during the shooting while police were holding back families and refusing to go in outside,” New York Times investigator Evan Hill wrote.
Initial claims that an armed guard engaged with the shooter prior to his entry into the school was also walked back on Thursday. The first officers on scene immediately retreated after being fired upon by the shooter.
An investigation has since been opened into law enforcement’s handling of the situation and whether any lives could have been saved.