DALAS (AP) – The Uwalde’s school district police chief was fired on Wednesday after allegations he made a wrong response to a mass attack on Rob Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Uwalde Hal Harel, Unified Independent School District Superintendent, said he had placed school police chief Pete Arendo on administrative leave because the facts of what happened remain unclear. In a statement, Harrell did not mention Arredondo’s actions as commander-in-chief during the attack, but said he did not know when the details of the multiple investigations into the law enforcement response to the killings would be revealed.
“From the beginning of this horrific incident, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was completed before making staff decisions,” Harel said. “Due to the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown time when I will receive the results of the investigations, I made the decision to put Chief Arredondo on administrative leave from that date.”
A representative from the Uvalde school district, Anne Marie Espinoza, declined to say whether Arredondo would continue to be paid during the leave.
Another officer will take over as combat chief, Harel said.
Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a Senate hearing Tuesday that Arredondo had made “terrible decisions” as the May 24 massacre unfolded and that police response was a “major failure.”
Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, several law enforcement officers were on the scene to stop the gunman, McCraw testified. However, police officers armed with rifles waited in the school corridor for more than an hour, while the gunman carried out the massacre. The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there was no indication that police officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside, McCraw said.
McCrow said parents begged police outside the school to come in, and students in the classroom repeatedly asked 911 pilots for help, with more than a dozen police officers waiting in a hallway. Officers from other services urged Arredondo to let them move because children were at risk.
“The only thing that prevented a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-site commander who decided to put the officers’ lives above the children’s lives,” McCroe said.
Senator Paul Bettencourt told the State Senate hearing that Arredondo should have resigned immediately.
“This man should have been fired immediately because, just looking at his answer, he was not able to do it,” Bethankour said.
Arredondo and his lawyer have repeatedly denied requests for comment from the Associated Press and did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Arredondo tried to defend his actions by telling the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the head of the business and that he assumed that someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He said he did not have police and campus radios, but that he used his cell phone to request regular equipment, a sniper and class keys.
It is not yet clear why it took so long for the police to enter the classroom, how they communicated with each other during the attack and what their body cameras show.
Officials declined to give further details, citing the investigation.
Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalde and spent much of his nearly 30-year law enforcement career in the city. He took over as police chief in the school district in 2020 and was sworn in as a member of the City Council in a closed-door ceremony on May 31st.
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