DALLAS (AP) — The Uvalde school district police chief was sent on leave on Wednesday after allegations that he made a mistake in his response to the Mass Shooting At Robb Elementary School in which 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said he School Police Chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave as the facts of what happened remain unclear. In a statement, Harrell did not elaborate on Arredondo’s actions as the site commander during the attack, but said he did not know when details of multiple investigations into law enforcement’s response to the killings would be revealed.
“From the outset of this horrific event, I said the district would wait for the investigation to be completed before making any personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Due to the uncertainty 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 as of this date.”
A spokesman for the Uvalde school district, Anne Marie Espinoza, declined to say whether Arredondo would continue to be paid during his leave.
Another officer will take over from the controversial chief, Harrell said.
Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Arredondo made “terrible decisions” as the massacre unfolded on May 24, and that the police’s response was a wake-up call. “abject failure.”
Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, enough armed police were on the scene to stop the gunman, McCraw testified. Still, police officers armed with guns waited more than an hour in a school hallway as the gunman carried out the massacre. The door of classroom could not lock from the inside, but there’s no evidence that officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside, McCraw said.
McCraw said: parents begged the police outside the school to move in and students in the classroom repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while more than a dozen officers waited in a hallway. Agents from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were at risk.
“The only thing that kept a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-site commander who decided to put officers’ lives over children’s lives,” McCraw said.
sen. Paul Bettencourt told the state senate hearing that Arredondo should have resigned immediately.
“This man should have taken himself off the track immediately because just looking at his reaction, he was incapable,” said Bettencourt.
Arredondo and his attorney have rejected repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press and did not immediately respond to a question about his leave of absence on Wednesday.
Arredondo has tried to defend his actions, tell the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed that someone else had taken control of the police. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios, but he used his cell phone to ask for tactical gear, a sniper, and the classroom keys.
Officials have declined to release more details, citing the investigation.
Arredon, 50, grew up in Uvalde and spent much of his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in the city. He assumed the post of chief police officer in the school district in 2020 and was sworn in behind closed doors as a member of the city council on May 31.
Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting