Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that he stopped at a campaign fundraiser following the deadly school shooting in Uvalde and “let people know” he could not stay, but a newspaper reports that he was there for nearly three hours.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday that campaign finance reports and flight-tracking records showed Mr Abbott arrived in Huntsville at 4.52pm on May 24 — hours after the shooting at Robb Elementary School — and then was driven about 2 miles to a local supporter’s house. He did not leave the city till 7.47pm.
An 18-year-old shooter entered the school at 11.33am that day but it was not till 12.50pm that law enforcement breached the classroom where he was holed up and killed him. Texas Department of Public Safety director colonel Steve McCraw has called law enforcement’s slow and chaotic response to the shooting an “abject failure”.
Mr McCraw has said that three minutes after the gunman entered the school, enough officers and firepower had been deployed to stop him. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the attack.
When Mr Abbott was asked at a news conference in Uvalde the day after the shooting why he had not canceled the fundraiser, he noted that he had been in Abilene when he learned of the attack.
“On the way back to Austin, I stopped and let people know that I could not stay, that I needed to go,” Mr Abbott said.
“And I wanted them to know what happened and get back to Austin so that I could continue my collaboration with Texas law enforcement to make sure that all the needs were being met here in the Uvalde area.”
Abilene, where Mr Abbott had given a news conference about wildfires, is about 220 miles north-west of Austin, while Huntsville is about 150 miles east of the state capital.
The governor’s campaign spokeswoman, Renae Eze, told the newspaper Mr Abbott had been forthright about his movements that day. She saidhroughout the afternoon and evening of May 24, Mr Abbott spoke with President Joe Biden, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, law enforcement and staff.
“The day after the tragedy, the governor traveled to Uvalde and met with law enforcement and local officials,” she said. “The governor’s description of his movements that day are accurate.”
The day after the shooting, Mr Abbott praised what he said was a swift response by law enforcement officers who “showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire”. He later said that he had been “misled” and was “livid” about it.
According to a campaign finance report, Mr Abbott may have raised as much as 50,000 dollars (£41,070) at the Huntsville fundraiser, the newspaper said.
The Republican faces Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke in November.