The police chief of the Texas elementary school where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers has been placed on administrative leave amid outrage that officers failed to intervene sooner to apprehend the shooter.
Under the command of Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, officers stood for approximately one hour and 15 minutes in front of classrooms where an 18-year-old with an AR-15 had opened fire on children and teachers, according to the Texas State Police.
Amid ongoing federal and state investigations into police conduct during the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, District Superintendent Hal Harrell announced that Arredondo would be suspended.
“Today, I still don’t have details of the investigations that are being conducted by various agencies,” Harrell said. “Due to the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective this date.”
Neither Arredondo nor his attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.
At a state hearing investigating the shooting, Texas Public Safety Chief Steve McCraw said the police response was an “abject failure” and that officers could have taken the shooter into custody three minutes after arriving on the scene.
“The only thing that stopped a hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on scene who decided to put the lives of the officers before the lives of the children,” McCraw said.
McCraw’s scathing rebuke of Arredondo came after weeks of conflicting and misleading statements from police and local officials about the officers’ response to the shooting. This week, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV found that officers were equipped with the firepower and equipment necessary to break down classroom doors and apprehend the gunman, and transcripts and records obtained by the Texas Tribune revealed that some officers were eager to get started. despite orders to stay behind.
During the massacre, the parents begged the officers to move and called 911 for help while the officers waited in the hallway.
Outrage against officers who stood back for 77 minutes as students died has since mounted. Arredondo “failed us,” said Berlinda Arreola, grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, one of the students killed. “We are begging, remove this man from our lives,” she said at a meeting calling for his resignation from public office.
Arredondo was also sworn in as a Uvalde city councilman shortly after the shooting, but has not attended the meetings. The council denied his request earlier Tuesday for a leave of absence from future meetings. The mayor said he would vote to replace Arredondo if he misses three meetings in a row.
The embattled police chief has differed from other law enforcement sources in his account of what happened at Robb Elementary School. narration the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the commander on scene.
In light of conflicting statements from law enforcement agencies, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez sued the Department of Public Safety on Wednesday as a way to force it to release records detailing the response of officers to the shooting.
“In the wake of the senseless tragedy, the people of Uvalde and Texas have demanded answers from their government,” Gutierrez said in the lawsuit. “To date, they have been met with lies, misstatements and shifts of blame.”