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Houston Police Chief 'Hit Rock Bottom' After Santa Fe Shooting


Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has, in his words, "hit rock bottom" after the shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, about 30 miles outside of Houston. According to local authorities, the alleged shooter, a student at the school, killed 10 people and injured at least 13 more in the attack. Later that night, Chief Acevedo went to Facebook to express his frustration with the debate over gun control in the United States. Chief Art Acevedo joins me now on the line.

Welcome to the program, sir.

ART ACEVEDO: Hey. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell me a little bit more about your day on Friday when this attack happened? Were you at the scene at Santa Fe High?

ACEVEDO: Yes. I mean, my day started off like a - just a typical Friday morning, had a calendar to deal with. And we got the call of an active shooter at Santa Fe High School. We put our resources on alert. We don't like to self - to dispatch. That creates its own set of problems. And after a while, we got a request for support, including our bomb squad and our bomb dogs.

And so we responded down there. And I spent a good part of my day with the people of Santa Fe. And that was pretty - it was a very emotional time to see the faces of the leaders in that community and community members. And it was just heart-wrenching - heart-wrenching to watch and heart-wrenching to be with Officer Barnes, who retired from us, and seeing what he and his family were going through.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Officer Barnes is obviously one of the injured police officers.

I want to read a little bit of your Facebook post here. You wrote, (reading) this isn't a time for prayers and study and inaction. It's a time for prayers, action and the asking of God's forgiveness for our inaction, especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers and will once again do absolutely nothing.

What, in your view, needs to be done about guns in this country?

ACEVEDO: We need action. I mean, listen. Most American gun owners are pragmatic. They're responsible. And they support gun policy that keeps firearms in the hands of law-abiding Americans of sound mind. We need to have a national background check system that is uniformed with real teeth and real consequences for those that try to defeat it in trying to get guns and for those that sell guns to the wrong people. We need to take pragmatic action to keep guns in the right hands.

And - but - oh, I tell you what we ought need to do is to stop throwing our hands up. This is the American people. We are a can-do people. We're a can-do country. And we can put a man on the moon and aircraft on Mars. We certainly can address the gun violence which is really a public health epidemic in this nation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that he wants new gun laws. And he spoke forcefully on the issue and says he's going to gather a group to start discussions. Are you going to be a part of it?

ACEVEDO: Well, my phone hasn't rang, I'll just tell you that. But I think that if you're going to talk about schools, teachers need to be part of it. If you're going to talk about public safety and security, law enforcement needs to be part of it. And I'm just grateful that I'm living in a city where our mayor gets it, and we're starting to do something at the local level. And at the end of the day, if the elected officials at the state and national level aren't going to do anything, Americans need to go to the ballot box, come up with the initiatives that make sense. And we need to start taking it directly to the voters because, clearly, too many elected officials are unwilling or unable to do anything about this scourge.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you confident that the governor means what he says?

ACEVEDO: Oh, we'll see. I mean - you know, proof is in the pudding. We'll see. You know, I made my statement about elected officials. I hope that every single one that went to cameras and gave interviews that day - I hope they put the egg in my face and prove me wrong. But again, history will either prove me wrong or prove me right. And the other thing we need to work on is mental health and bullying in schools and a lot of other things. But there's a lot we can do and very little that we're doing. And that is, I think, the crux of my frustration and frustration of a lot of Americans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to ask you about John Barnes, who was injured in this attack. You mentioned him and his family. Can you tell us anything about how he's doing?

ACEVEDO: He is - thank goodness, he's going to make it. He was fighting for his life, flatlined twice. I've been there with the family. It's a beautiful family. And they're so grateful and thankful for all the prayers and all the good thoughts that have been sent their way. Let's keep praying not just for them but all the victims in Santa Fe, their families and the victims in this country that are subjected to the carnage created by poor gun policy in this nation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, thank you very much.

ACEVEDO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.