State Watch

Uvalde school board fires police chief who led response to mass shooting

Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26, 2022.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

The Uvalde school board on Wednesday fired Pete Arredondo, the school district’s police chief who led the law enforcement response to a May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school that left 19 children and two adults dead.

The Uvalde Independent Consolidated School District unanimously fired Arredondo during a termination hearing, which was held behind closed doors. Local residents gave emotional testimony about the loved ones they lost in the school shooting in the auditorium while they waited for the school board to make the final decision.

Families of the victims have long called for Arredondo’s termination. Many residents showed up on Wednesday with signs, including those reading “If you did not do your job, give up the badge.”

Arredondo did not show up for the termination hearing, citing threats made against his life. In a 17-page statement published by the Texas Tribune, his lawyers wrote their client “will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching” and requested that Arredondo be reinstated with full backpay. 

His attorneys laid the blame for the shooting on what they called a host of other failures, including an accusation that the school district did not heed his call last year to prepare for a school shooting. They said if Arredondo had better equipment or the school had taller fences and doors that properly locked, “it could have been different.”

“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who with all of the other law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved, instead of vilified for those they couldn’t reach in time, and not for lack of effort,” the statement reads. “The ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances had to culminate to cause such a tragedy. There was only one person that caused this – the shooter.”

Around 376 officers from multiple agencies, including Border Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Uvalde school district, responded to the shooting at Robb Elementary School while a gunman opened fire inside two classrooms. 

Police did not take the shooter down for more than an hour despite gathering inside the hallway outside the classrooms.

Arredondo, who was the commanding officer on site, has defended himself and claimed that he believed the situation had evolved into a barricaded suspect, not an active shooter situation. 

Despite writing the school district’s active shooter response plan that installs him as the incident commander, Arredondo has also claimed he “could not have served as the incident commander” that day because he was on the front lines of the response.

The former police chief was placed on paid administrative leave in June and has been on unpaid leave since July 19. At the hearing, the Uvalde school board decided not to pay him for the time he was on unpaid leave.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and a Texas state House committee launched investigations into the law enforcement response. A July report from the Texas committee found “egregious failures” from both the school board and the police.

Security camera footage leaked last month also showed police officers crowded into a hallway outside the classrooms for more than an hour.

Arredondo, an Uvalde native, was hired as the school district’s police chief in 2020. He previously worked for the Uvalde Police Department and other departments in Texas, including Laredo and Webb County.

Tags Border Patrol Department of Justice Pete Arredondo Robb Elementary shooting School board Texas Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Tribune Uvalde

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