UVALDE, Texas – The Uvalde School District’s police chief was fired Wednesday after allegations he made several critical mistakes during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, which left 19 students and two teachers dead.
In a unanimous vote, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s board of directors fired police chief Pete Arredondo, three months after one of the deadliest classroom shootings in US history.
“Coward!” parents shouted in an auditorium in Uvalde as the meeting began.
Arredondo is the first officer fired because of law enforcement’s hesitant and clumsy response to the May 24 tragedy. Only one other officer – Lieutenant Mariano Pargas of the Uvalde Police Department, who was the city’s acting chief of police on the day of the massacre – is known to have been placed on leave for his actions during the shooting.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, is under the most intense scrutiny of the nearly 400 officers who rushed to school but waited more than an hour to face the 18-year-old gunman in a fourth year. Classroom.
Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to act sooner. Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo was in charge of the police response to the attack.
Arrendondo did not attend.
Instead, minutes before Uvalde’s school board meeting began, Arredondo’s lawyer released a scathing 4,500-word letter that represented the police chief’s most thorough defense to date of his actions. With more than 17 challenging pages, Arredondo is not the clumsy school police chief that a damn state investigation blamed for not taking charge and wasting time looking for the keys to a likely unlocked door, but a courageous officer whose sensible decisions saved his life. from other students.
The letter also accused Uvalde’s school officials of putting his life at risk by not letting him bring a gun to the school board meeting.
“Chief Arredondo is a courageous leader and officer who, with all the other officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved rather than vilified for those who failed to reach in time,” Hyde wrote.
Uvalde school officials are under increasing pressure from victims’ families and community members, many of whom have called for Arredondo’s resignation. Superintendent Hal Harrell began firing Arredondo in July but delayed the decision at the request of the chief of police’s lawyer.
Among those present at the meeting was Ruben Torres, father of Chloe Torres, who survived the shooting in room 112 of the school. He said that as a former Marine, he took an oath that he faithfully carried out willingly and did not understand why officers failed to act when leadership failed.
“Right now, being young, she’s having a hard time dealing with this horrible event,” Torres said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 state police officers on the ground, also launched an internal investigation into the state police response.
School officials said the Robb Elementary campus will no longer be used. Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for elementary school students, not all willing to return to school in person after the shooting.
School officials say a virtual gym will be offered to students. The district has not said how many students will attend virtually, but a new state law passed last year in Texas after the pandemic limits the number of eligible students receiving remote instruction to “10% of all students enrolled in a given school system.”
Schools can apply for an exemption to exceed the limit, but Uvalde has not, according to Melissa Holmes, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
New measures to improve school safety in Uvalde include “about 2.5 meters non-climbable” on elementary, middle and high school campuses, according to the school district. Officials say they have also installed additional security cameras, updated locks, improved training for district officials and improved communication.
However, according to the district’s own progress reports, as of Tuesday, no fences had been erected on six of the eight campuses where it was planned, and cameras had only been installed at the school. Some progress has been made on the locks on three of the eight campuses, and improved communication has been marked halfway through for each campus.
Uvalde CISD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.