School District Police Chief Uwalde has been placed on furlough after allegations that his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, which killed 19 students and two teachers, was a “terrible failure”.
Walde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said he placed school police chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave because the facts of what happened that day in south Texas remain unclear.
In his statement, Mr. Harrell did not mention the officer’s actions as on-site commander during the attack, but said he did not know when details of the numerous investigations into the law enforcement response to the killings would be released.
“From the beginning of this horrific event, I have been saying that the county will wait until the investigation is completed before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said.
“Due to a lack of clarity and an unknown timeline for the results of the investigation, I have taken the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective from that date.”
Uvalde School District spokeswoman Anne-Marie Espinosa declined to say whether Arredondo would receive pay during the holidays.
According to Harrell, another officer will take over the chief’s duties.
Col. Stephen McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a State Senate hearing Tuesday that Mr. Arredondo made “terrible decisions” when the May 24 massacre unfolded and that the police response was “a terrible failure.”
Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, Mr. McCrow said enough law enforcement arrived on the scene to stop the shooter. However, policemen armed with rifles waited in the school hallway for more than an hour while the gunman carried out the massacre.
According to Mr. McCraw, the door to the classroom could not have been locked from the inside, but there is no indication that the officers tried to open the door while the shooter was inside.
The colonel said parents begged police near the school to move, and students in the classroom repeatedly pleaded with emergency operators for help, while more than a dozen police officers waited in the hallway. Officers from other agencies urged Mr. Arredondo to let them move because the children were in danger.
“The only thing that kept the loyal officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on the scene who decided to put the lives of the officers ahead of the lives of the children,” Mr. McCraw said.
Mr. Arredondo attempted to defend his actions by telling the Texas Tribune that he does not consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumes that someone else has taken control of the law enforcement response.
He said he didn’t have a walkie-talkie with the police and campus, but he used his cell phone to call for tactical gear, a sniper, and class keys.
It is still unclear why the police officers did not enter the classroom for so long, how they communicated with each other during the attack, and what their body cameras show.
Officials declined to disclose details, citing the investigation.
Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalda and spent much of his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in the city. In 2020, he assumed the position of school district police chief and was sworn in as a city council member on May 31 in a closed-door ceremony.