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The Lead June 22, 2022: Sheriff Leitha speaks about donations; more training in the wake of Uvalde

The sheriff was a guest on The Lead Live and offered his thoughts on Uvalde.

Good morning, Kerr County!

It's looking like we may get a bit of moisture to end June — just a bit. The forecast models look like our best chance of rain is coming Monday, with a 40% chance of thunderstorms. However, the National Weather Service and others suggest it could be less than a tenth inch. Still, it's going to be nice to have something. The rest of the week looks hot and hotter. Forecasters suggest highs around 100 degrees starting Thursday.

On today's The Lead Live!

The question this morning will be if Louis Amestoy passes his COVID-19 test to clear him to return to the show. If not, well, anything is possible.

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Plan your day!

Wednesday, June 22

Markets and Sales

  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.
  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.

At our museums

  • Texas Watercolor Society Annual Exhibit — Hill Country Arts Foundation., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Through June 30. Information: The details: The Hill Country Arts Foundation is hosting the Texas Watercolor Society's 73rd National Exhibit. This exhibit features watercolor pieces by over forty artists from across the United States. In 1949, TWS was founded by Margaret Pace Willson and Amy Freeman Lee with the mission to advance the art of painting in watercolors, and hold annual exhibitions of watercolor paintings. Today, more than 60 years later, TWS continues to promote the high standards set by its founders. Thus, as a national exhibit, TWS proudly takes its place among the elite watercolor organizations in the nation.
  • Heaven's Declare Art Exhibition (Recurring through Saturday) — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. Information: The details: Featuring works by renowned artists who celebrate the heavens. The exhibition will feature works by Phil Bob Borman, G. Russell Case, Tim Newton, Laurel Daniel, Linda Glover Gooch, David Griffin, David Grossman, Michael Magrin, Denise LaRue Mahlke, Phil Starke and John Taft.
  • Southwest Gourd Show — Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: See some of the finest examples of gourd-based art and uses during this unique exhibit that runs through July 9.

Sheriff Leitha makes his case

In his 18 months in office, Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha has prided himself on the improvements made to the office since his election in 2020, but one of his biggest achievements is fundraising.

"People are always asking me, 'hey, Sheriff, what do you need?," Leitha said on Tuesday's episode of The Lead Live. " And they started donating money and for me to accept that money has to go through the commissioner's court."

Instead of taking the money, Leitha formed a foundation to support auxiliary projects for the office. The foundation, led by Chris Coffee and others, has already produced impressive results for the sheriff's office. The foundation is now working with the Cailloux Foundation to raise more than $300,000 to purchase an armored vehicle for the sheriff's special response team. The Cailloux Foundation will give $150,000 when the Sheriff's Foundation matches that amount.

Coffee said the foundation ensures that deputies have the right equipment.

"I'd rather have the guys that have the training, have the equipment, you know, ready to go and always on notice than the guys are just scrambling around going, oh, what do we do now?," Coffee said

If everything goes according to plan, the sheriff's office could purchase a new Bearcat armored vehicle by the end of the year. Previous fundraisers have proven to be a success.

On Thursday at Trailhead Beer Garden, Leitha and the foundation will hold a meet and greet at 6:30 p.m.

Sheriff Leitha on the Uvalde school shooting

During Tuesday's interview, Sheriff Larry Leitha said he feels like the May 24 killing of 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde's Robb Elementary School has left him no choice but to require additional training from his tactical deputies.

"My hand has been forced," Leitha said. "You know, we have to prepare. You never think it's going to happen here, but as you see, Uvalde is just a couple of hours down the road.

"What, I've told our special response team commander is, hey, this summer, what we're going to do is we're going to train at every school in the county, "Leitha said. "You know, we're going to oversee them because I know the (city of Kerrville) is taking care of the schools in the city."

Speaking of Uvalde

The story in Uvalde continues to spiral beyond the grasp of local officials to manage it, and now it's got the extra layer of state and federal investigators asking questions. On Tuesday, Texas Department of Safety Director Col. Steve McCraw testified in Austin that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief Pete Arrendondo failed to act. McCraw said he could have ended the rampage in three minutes. Instead, it took an hour for the police to kill the suspect.

While McCraw was testifying, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin released a statement assuring transparency in the investigation. There is criticism that the city and school district has not been forthcoming about releasing information. The city hired San Antonio law firm Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal and Zech — the same law firm representing Kerrville externally — to handle its public outreach.

The Texas Tribune released a compelling timeline of the events on May 24 at Robb Elementary School, including some details about the gunman's threats before the shooting. Here's the link:

The Austin American-Statesman and television station KXAN released a video still from inside Robb Elementary School that showed heavily armed police aiming rifles down a hall protected by ballistic shields.

Texas Monthly asks the question we've all been wondering about: Will we ever know what happened? In a piece from June 17, writer Forrest Wilder wrote: "For anyone expecting an apology, accountability, or even a clear and concise narrative of what happened at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, well, you may be waiting a while longer—perhaps forever. No one has resigned, no one has been fired, and local and state authorities from the Uvalde CISD superintendent up to the governor have stopped providing updates. Local and state agencies are refusing most requests to release information they are supposed to make available under Texas's open records law, even to the state senator who represents Uvalde." Read more of Wilder's work here:

State Sen. Bob Hall tried to minimize the weapon in the shooting during the hearing on Tuesday.

See @zachdespart's post on Twitter.

The Texas governor's race tightens

A poll by Quinnipiac University found that Gov. Greg Abbott's lead over Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke has slipped away — although Abbott polls better on some key issues, including the economy. Abbott holds a 5% point lead over O'Rourke in the head-to-head matchup contested Nov. 8. An earlier poll version suggested Abbott had a 15% point lead.

COVID-19 surge continues

It's hard to tell how many people in Kerr County are positive for COVID-19, but we know it's significant. On Tuesday, Texas said more than 12,000 people across the state tested positive. It's the biggest one-day surge since February. More than 1,900 people are hospitalized, including 94 children. Gaining an accurate number of COVID-19 cases will be difficult because so many people won't test, won't share results or don't care.

Economic Improvement Corp. update

Kerrville Economic Develop Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas told Kerrville's seven-member Economic Improvement Corp. on Monday that his organization is preparing to implement a strategic plan. KEDC has worked from a "road map," but Salinas wants a strong plan to help the agency focus on innovation. Salinas made the remarks Monday during the EIC meeting at City Hall. "Now we're really ready to take it to the next level," said Salinas, adding he will present the draft plan, including deliverables, to the EIC next month.

A fire destroys an Ingram home

A house fire left an Ingram couple homeless and claimed the lives of two of their five dogs. Friends and the couple's family were working to provide shelter for the couple and the surviving dogs. Freelance photographer Tony Gallucci captured some of the scene.


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