Just hours after 10 people were killed in a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, the police chief in nearby Houston issued a defiant condemnation of elected officials who had failed to act on gun control, saying he had “hit rock bottom.”
In a statement on Facebook, the chief, Art Acevedo, wrote that he had “shed tears of sadness, pain and anger” after the shooting, which happened about 35 miles away.
“I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue,” he wrote. “Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do. My feelings won’t be hurt if you de-friend me and I hope yours won’t be if you decide to post about your views and I de-friend you.”
On Saturday, the authorities said the student who opened fire, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, had confessed. There have been so many school shootings recently — including one in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old former student killed 17 people — that to some students at Santa Fe High School the shooting Friday was hardly a surprise.
In his Facebook post, which had elicited more than 16,000 reactions as of late Saturday, Acevedo said the days after the shooting were a time for “the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction.” He specifically called out “the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing.”
“I will continue to speak up and will stand up for what my heart and my God commands me to do, and I assure you he hasn’t instructed me to believe that gun rights are bestowed by him,” he wrote. “The hatred being spewed in our country and the new norms we, so-called people of faith, are accepting, is as much to blame for so much of the violence in our once pragmatic Nation.”
Acevedo, who took office in 2016, leads a department of more than 5,000 officers in the fourth-largest city in the United States. Under his direction, officers have rarely asked detainees about their immigration status, despite a Texas immigration law that bans sanctuary cities.
“Policing is all about relationships, and my job is, if these people are going to live in our city, is build those relationships,” he said last year at The New York Times’ Cities for Tomorrow conference. “We’re taking the lead in the cities to try to make the best of really bad politics, really bad policy.”
In an email Saturday, Acevedo said he had received “overwhelming positive feedback” to his Facebook post. He said both he and Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston feel they have a “moral obligation to speak up and to take steps to protect the community we’ve taken an oath to serve and protect.”
“We’ve been speaking up for many years and will continue to do so for as long as it takes,” he said. “Mayor Turner and I know that ultimately together, pragmatic Americans and responsible gun owners, will be heard and will win the day.”