Betancourt was one of several officers at the scene during the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School who waited 77 minutes to enter a classroom where an 18-year-old gunman massacred 19 4th-grade students and two teachers.
According to CNN’s October 20, 2022, report, Betancourt tried to stop a team of law enforcement officers from entering the classroom. CNN reported that Betancourt ordered a strike team to stand down 70 minutes after the shooting started, citing an audio recording and police memos.
Here’s what you need to know about Captain Joel Betancourt:
1. Joel Betancourt Was Heard on the Audio Recording Saying ‘The Team That’s Going to Breach Needs to Stand By,’ CNN Reports
According to CNN, Betancourt has been interviewed several times and is one of seven DPS officers referred to the Texas Department of Public Safety Inspector General for investigation. Betancourt is the most-senior officer under investigation, the news network reports. He arrived at the scene minutes before the shooter was killed and radioed to tell a tacital team to stand down, according to CNN.
“Hey, this is DPS Captain Betancourt. The team that’s going to make breach needs to stand by. The team that’s gonna breach needs to stand by,” he could be heard saying in audio obtained by CNN. The news network wrote, “In the course of the investigation, Betancourt told investigators he had no first-hand knowledge of what was going on, including that a specialized Border Patrol tactical unit, BORTAC, was confronting the shooter, according to sources familiar with the investigation. He said he issued the order for the team to stand by as he thought a better unit was on its way, sources said.”
CNN also obtained police memos that are critical of Betancourt’s actions. One memo, from a DPS lieutenant, said, “I heard someone shout out, Capt. Betancourt said all DPS personnel need to be on perimeter, do no (sic) enter building,” according to CNN. A DPS sergeant wrote in another memo, “This was clearly against established training, we both decided to enter the building where the shooter was located.”
2. Betancourt Has Worked for the Department of Public Safety for 15 Years & Is Paid $121,785 Per Year, According to Public Records
According to CNN and public records, Joel Betancourt has worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety for 15 years. Betancourt could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it was not immediately clear if he has hired an attorney to represent him during the investigation who could speak on his behalf.
Betancourt has a salary of $121,785 per year, according to public records obtained by the Texas Tribune and included in the news site’s Government Salaries Explorer database. Betancourt earned $104,331 in 2021.
The team that Betancourt was trying to halt did go into the classroom and killed the shooter, police have said. Betancourt has not commented about the investigation and his actions. Texas Department of Public Safety Colonel Steve McCraw said, “Yes, absolutely,” when asked by CNN if Betancourt is being investigated. “The IG is investigating that,” McCraw, the head of the DPS, told CNN.
3. Betancourt Is a Leader of the Texas DPS’ South Texas Region & Has Been Highly Involved in Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Efforts
Betancourt is a leader in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s South Texas Region, according to the division’s Facebook page. Betancourt has been featured frequently in photos and posts on the Texas DPS page and often speaks on behalf of the department at public meetings and community and business events.
In March 2020, he was quoted as saying about an awards ceremony for officers in his district, “Every day our employees work to accomplish our critical mission with selfless dedication, and we’re proud to recognize them for the exceptional work they do.”
In his role with the South Texas Region, Betancourt has played a key part in Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, an effort to use Texas state police and National Guard troops to patrol the southern border with Mexico. Betancourt was quoted in a June 2021 post saying, “The current situation along the U.S./Texas Border has put a strain on our local ranchers and our communities. Operation Lone Star was launched to help secure the border as it poses a public safety threat to all Texans.”
4. Betancourt Studied Criminal Justice at Laredo Community College & Was Previously a Highway Patrol Lieutenant
Betancourt was promoted to captain in January 2019 at a ceremony in Austin, Texas, according to a friend’s Facebook post. Betancourt was previously a lieutenant and sergeant with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol, according to his now-deleted LinkedIn profile.
Betancourt studied criminal justice at Laredo Community College, according to his LinkedIn profile.
5. There Are Multiple Investigations Into Police Actions During the Uvalde Shooting
Along with the Texas DPS Inspector General’s investigation, a local criminal investigation is underway and authorities asked the FBI to assist in the probe in the days after the shooting, when it came apparent that the initial police descriptions of what happened were not accurate.
Uvalde School District Police Department Chief Pete Arredondo has received heavy criticism of his actions and was fired by the school district in August. The school district’s superintendent has since stepped down and the school district’s police department was disbanded.
A former Texas DPS officer who is facing an investigation into her actions during the shooting was hired by the Uvalde ISD Police before the department was shut down, according to CNN. State trooper Crimson Elizondo was fired on October 7 by the district after CNN reported on her actions during the massacre. In body camera footage, Elizondo could be heard saying, ““f my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that,” CNN reported.