Border Patrol Agent Jacob Albarado, hailed a hero in the Uvalde school shooting, has set up a fundraiser for his family, drawing kudos and questions in the wake of the tragedy.
On May 24, a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. It was the deadliest of a litany of mass shootings in Texas since 22 people were murdered at a Walmart in El Paso three years ago, and a 23rd victim later died from his injuries.
Uvalde residents and their supporters have crowdsourced more than $11 million through GoFundMe.com accounts alone in eight days, according to Bloomberg News. The largest of the accounts on the platform, the “Texas Elementary School Shooting Victims Fund,” has raised $5.7 million so far.
Albarado has raised more than $17,000 in five days through a GoFundMe account called “Uvaldestrong@Albarado,Jacob.”
“These past days have been unreal,” according to the account’s GoFundMe blurb. “My daughter lost a friend & my wife lost 2 of her best friends that always kept her laughing. My wife will not be teaching summer school this year because she is too traumatized to even go near the school. Who knows if she’ll ever even teach again. I know I’m not allowing her or my kids back at school until there is a change. We count on this money to play travel ball and travel nation wide with our family to pursue their dreams. It will take time and plenty of counseling but we’ll keep pushing forward one day At a time. Thank you to everyone who has reached out by phone, text & messenger. I feel the love and I’m extremely grateful for all the support.”
Albarado shared the GoFundMe account to his personal Facebook page on May 30 at 10:54 p.m. with the tagline “Protect the Children.” The post has been shared more than 275 times and generated hundreds of comments.
Off duty for the day, Albarado was sitting down to a haircut on Tuesday, May 24, when he received a harrowing text from his wife, a fourth-grade teacher at Robb Elementary: “There’s an active shooter. Help. Love you,” she wrote. His daughter was at the school, too.
He arrived in minutes to rescue his wife and daughter and helped evacuate other students and teachers through the windows of their classrooms.
Albarado didn’t confront or kill the gunman, a false storyline that he didn’t promote but nevertheless emerged and gained traction on social media. A member of Border Patrol’s tactical team killed the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, but that agent has wished to remain anonymous.
Albarado told the El Paso Times in a Facebook message that his lawyer is “arranging any media interviews” and referred to the Albarado Law Firm of Denton, Texas. Attorney Emmanuel Albarado didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
A U.S. Border Patrol spokesman for Del Rio Sector, which includes Uvalde, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Reactions on social media to Albarado’s fundraising effort were mixed, with some expressing support for the agent and his family and others raising ethical concerns.
Donors can share messages when they donate on GoFundMe. One donor identifying as Masood Kureshi donated $50 and wrote, “Thank you for your tremendous courage, and for doing the right thing, in spite of the danger. You are a true HERO!”
Another donor identifying as Rebecca Hendrix also contributed $50 and said, “Thank you sir for stepping up and stepping in. I hope you get to enjoy some of your summer with your beautiful family. This world needs more people like you. God Bless. With love, from Houston.”
On other platforms including Facebook and Twitter, some questioned whether Albarado was profiting from the tragedy or taking funds that could be given to victims’ families. A user identifying as Heather Whaley commented on Albarado’s May 30 Facebook post: “I’m concerned by the desire to monetize off this … This seems in poor taste to the lost victims and their families.”
Another user identifying as Maria Teresa Sarabia commented on the same post: “It isn’t necessary to monetize a good action. Whatever he did, he was lucky because he didn’t (lose) any family members. So why does he need a gofundme account? That would be better for the victims’ families. With all due respect.”
As a federal agent, Albarado is subject to government codes of conduct.
The United States Office of Government Ethics recognized the ethical complexity of crowdsourced fundraising during the pandemic, when many federal employees were furloughed and sought alternative funding sources.
“While crowdsourced fundraising is not strictly prohibited by the gift rules, the nature of this type of fundraising is complex and demands that extra care be taken to ensure that federal employees do not solicit or accept prohibited gifts,” Office of Government Ethics Director Emory Rounds said in an October 2020 memo to government ethics officials.
The memo answered “frequently asked questions” about when crowdsourced fundraising could be considered improper, including by defining who is considered a prohibited donor and when a crowdsourced donation could be construed as given because of one’s official position.
“Specifically, you may not solicit or accept gifts from a prohibited source or given because of your official position, unless a relevant exception applies,” the memo said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state will cover myriad benefits for those impacted by the massacre, including health care and funeral costs, some travel costs and unemployment benefits.
Members of the Uvalde community seeking state mental health resources can receive help through a single 24/7 hotline: 888-690-0799. Those impacted by the Uvalde shooting can visit onestarfoundation.org/uvalde for assistance. Donations can be made at the same site.
Lauren Villagran can be reached at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Border Patrol agent hailed as hero in Uvalde shooting starts GoFundMe