Uvalde school officials could fire Pete Arredondo, the school district’s police chief, on Aug. 24, three months after he was one of the first law enforcement officers to arrive at Robb Elementary, where a gunman killed two teachers and 19 children.
School officials on Tuesday set a date for a meeting to decide Arredondo’s future with the district. On Monday, school board members agreed to hire outside attorneys to assist them ahead of the hearing.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District trustees have faced intense pressure to fire Arredondo, whom many state leaders have publicly blamed for the delayed response to the shooter. Hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman after he entered the school and perpetrated the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
A Texas House committee report released in July said the responding officers lacked clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to more quickly confront the gunman, who was shot and killed after a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team entered the classroom where most of the victims were shot.
Arredondo was listed in the district’s active-shooter plan as the commanding officer, but the consensus of those interviewed by the House committee was that Arredondo did not assume that role and no one else took over for him, which resulted in a chaotic law enforcement response.
Arredondo testified to the House committee that he believed the shooter was a “barricaded subject” instead of an “active shooter” after seeing an empty classroom next to the one where the shooter was hiding.
“With the benefit of hindsight, we now know this was a terrible, tragic mistake,” the House report stated.
Training for active-shooter scenarios directs law enforcement responders to prioritize the lives of innocent victims over those of officers.
The report criticized Arredondo’s focus on trying to find a key to open the door to the room the shooter was in, which “consumed his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the breach of the classrooms.” The report said the classroom door didn’t lock properly and likely wasn’t locked as police waited to confront the shooter.
In addition to serving as the school district’s police chief, Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde City Council a few weeks before the shooting but wasn’t sworn in until after the massacre. After missing several meetings, Arredondo stepped down from his District 3 seat to “minimize further distractions,” he said.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/16/uvalde-police-chief-arredondo/.
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