UVALDE, Texas– The Uvalde School District on Wednesday fired Police Chief Pete Arrendondo, becoming the first officer to lose his job over law enforcement’s hesitant and fumbling response at Robb Elementary School, when a gunman shot 19 students and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom killed.
In a unanimous vote, which came after months of angry calls for his removal, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees dismissed Arredondo in an auditorium of parents and survivors of the May 24 massacre. His fall came exactly three months to the day after one of the deadliest classroom shootings in US history.
Cheers from the crowd followed the vote, and some parents walked out in tears.
“Coward!” some listeners shouted as the meeting began.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, faced the most intense scrutiny of the nearly 400 officers who rushed to the school but waited more than an hour to confront the 18-year-old gunman in a fourth-grade classroom.
Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to act sooner. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo was responsible for law enforcement’s response to the attack.
Arredondo didn’t have his career at stake.
Instead, minutes before the start of the Uvalde school board meeting, Arredondo’s lawyer released a scathing 4,500-word letter that constituted the police chief’s fullest defense yet of his actions. Across 17 defiant pages, Arredondo isn’t the fumbling school police chief who is accused by a scathing state investigation of not taking charge and wasting time searching for keys to a likely unlocked door, but a brave cop whose level-headed decisions Students have saved lives of others.
It alleges that a year before the shooting, Arrendondo warned the county about a series of school safety issues and claims he was not responsible for the scene. The letter also accused Uvalde’s school officials of compromising his safety by not letting him carry a gun to school board meetings, citing “legitimate dangers to the public and to Chief Arredondo”.
“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who, along with all the other police officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved rather than vilified for those they could not reach in time,” Hyde wrote.
Uvalde school officials are under increasing pressure from victims’ families and the community, many of whom have called for Arredondo’s termination. Superintendent Hal Harrell initially fired Arredondo in July but delayed the decision at the request of the police chief’s attorney.
Among those who attended 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 which he faithfully and willingly carried out and did not understand why officers did not act when leadership failed.
“Right now, as a young woman, she’s having a hard time dealing with this horrific event,” Torres said.
Arredondo is the first officer to be fired over law enforcement’s hesitant and clumsy response to the May 24 tragedy. Just one other officer – Lt. Mariano Pargas of the Uvalde Police Department, who was the city’s acting police chief on the day of the massacre – was known to have been suspended for his actions during the shooting.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 state police officers on the scene, has also launched an internal investigation into the state police response.
School officials have said Robb Elementary’s campus is no longer in use. Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for primary school students, not all of whom are willing to return to school in person after the shooting.
School officials say a virtual academy will be offered to students. The district hasn’t said how many students will be attending virtually, but a new state law passed in Texas last year in the wake of the pandemic limits the number of eligible students receiving distance learning to “10% of all enrolled students within one.” particular school system”.
Schools can apply for an exemption to exceed the limit, according to Melissa Holmes, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, but Uvalde has not done so.
New measures to improve school safety in Uvalde include “8-foot, non-scalable fencing” at elementary, middle and high schools, according to the school district. Officials say they’ve also installed additional security cameras, upgraded locks, improved training for district employees and improved communications.
However, as of Tuesday, according to the district’s own progress reports, fences had not been erected on six of the eight proposed campuses, and cameras had only been installed at the high school. Some progress had been made on the airlocks at three out of eight campuses, and communication improvements were marked as semi-complete for each campus.
Uvalde CISD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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https://6abc.com/uvalde-chief-pete-arredondo-fired-mass-shooting/12162722/ Uvalde school board fires Chief Pete Arredondo after deadly mass shooting