HOUSTON — The Uvalde, Texas, school district police chief has been placed on administrative leave after the state’s top police official blamed him for delaying a confrontation with a gunman at the Robb Elementary School last month, the school district announced Wednesday.
Chief Pete Arredondo was among the first officers to arrive at the school after the shooting began on May 24. According to State Police Director Steven McCraw, he was also the incident commander for the response, which Mr. McCraw called “a bitter failure.”
Although officers from multiple agencies entered the school minutes after a gunman opened fire in two connected classrooms, they waited more than an hour before confronting and killing him. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the attack.
School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said in a press release that he planned “to await the completion of the investigation before making personnel decisions.” But he said he ultimately made the decision to furlough the chief due to “the remaining lack of clarity and the unknown when I will receive the results”.
The shooting and the police response are currently the subject of several investigations, including by Mr McCraw’s Department of Public Safety, the US Department of Justice and a select committee of the Texas Legislature.
Lt. Mike Hernandez will assume the role of department head, Dr. Harrell said. It has six uniformed members and the jurisdiction of the schools of Uvalde.
Chief Arredondo defended his decision-making and said in an interview this month that he did not believe he was in charge of the response at Robb Elementary School. The law firm representing him declined to comment further on Wednesday.
A day before the school district’s decision, Chief Arredondo was denied leave by the Uvalde City Council, to which he was elected shortly before the shooting. He has not appeared at public meetings since the attack and, without permission, he could be forced to give up his Council seat after three missed meetings.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s vote, some parents and residents of Uvalde addressed the Council and spoke out forcefully against Chief Arredondo.
“We have to beg you to do something to get this man out of our faces,” Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Joe Garza’s grandmother, said at the meeting, wearing a shirt of her granddaughter. deceased daughter. “He let us down. Don’t make the same mistake he did and don’t let us down too.
As the Council signaled that it would deny Chief Arredondo leave, many in the crowd cheered and cheered.
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