Uvalde: Police chief suspended following the mass shooting


Uvalde ~Texas
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo attends a news conference outside of Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Photo / AP

The police chief of the Uvalde school district was placed on administrative leave following charges that he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, which resulted in the deaths of 19 pupils and two instructors.

Hal Harrell, superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, stated that he placed Chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave because of the lack of clarity around the incident. In a statement, Harrell did not address Arredondo's conduct as on-site commander during the attack. Still, he did say he did not know when federal, state, and local investigations into the law enforcement response to the murders would publish their findings.

Harrell stated, "From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions," "Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date."

Anne Marie Espinoza, a spokesperson for the Uvalde school system, declined to comment on whether Arredondo would continue to be compensated while on leave.

Harrell stated that another officer would assume the chief's responsibilities.

Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified at a state Senate committee on Tuesday that Arredondo made "terrible decisions" as the May 24 slaughter progressed and that the police response was an "abject failure."

McCraw stated that three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, enough armed law officers were present to stop the gunman. Yet, armed police officers waited in a school hallway for more than an hour as the gunman committed the carnage. McCraw stated that the classroom door could not be secured from the inside, but there is no evidence that officers attempted to unlock the door while the shooter was inside.

McCraw has stated that parents outside the school implored police to enter, and pupils inside the classroom repeatedly called 911 for assistance as more than a dozen officers waited in the hallway. Children were in danger, so officers from other agencies pushed Arredondo to allow them to move in.

McCraw stated, "The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,"

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin refuted McCraw's testimony that blamed Arredondo, stating that the Department of Public Safety has consistently disseminated misleading information regarding the shooting and minimized the role of its police.

McLaughlin branded Tuesday's Senate session a "clown show" and claimed he heard nothing from McCraw about the involvement of state troopers. However, their presence in the school corridor during the massacre exceeded that of any other law enforcement agency.

Delays in police reaction during the shooting have become the subject of ongoing investigations and widespread outrage. Conflicting and contradictory information and timelines provided by law enforcement have sometimes generated anger and resentment.

Tuesday, the Uvalde City Council decided unanimously against granting council member Arredondo a leave of absence from attending public meetings. Relatives of the shooting victims appealed to local officials to dismiss him instead.

"Please, please, we're begging you, get this man out of our lives," pleaded Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, 10, who was fatally shot during the attack.

Bettencourt stated during the state Senate hearing that Arredondo should have resigned immediately.

Bettencourt stated, "This man should have removed himself from the job immediately because, just looking at his response, he was incapable of it,"

Arredondo and his attorney have denied The Associated Press' repeated requests for comment and have not immediately responded to a Wednesday question regarding his leave.

Arredondo has attempted to explain his conduct, telling the Texas Tribune that he did not view himself as the operations commander and that he expected someone else was in charge of the law enforcement response. He stated that he did not have his police and campus radios, but he used his iPhone to request tactical equipment, a sniper, and the classroom keys.

It remains unclear why police took so long to enter the classroom, how they communicated during the attack, and what their body cameras captured.

Officials have declined to divulge any information, citing an ongoing investigation.

Arredondo, age 50, was raised in Uvalde and has spent most of his nearly 30-year law enforcement career in the city. He became chief of police for the school district in 2020 and was sworn in as a member of the City Council on May 31 behind closed doors.

Publish : 2022-06-23 10:52:00

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