Uvalde school police chief put on leave after responding to ‘gross failure’

The police chief of the Uvalde school district has been placed on leave following allegations of his reaction to the deaths of 19 students and two teachers in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, which was a “gross failure”.

Walde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said he placed the schools’ police chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave because the facts of what happened that day in southern Texas are unclear.

In a statement, Mr Harrell did not address the officer’s actions as on-site commander during the attack, but said he did not know when the details of multiple investigations into the law enforcement response to the killings would emerge.

“From the beginning of this horrific incident, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was completed before the personnel made a decision,” Mr. Harrell said.

“Due to the lack of clarity and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigation, I have decided to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave, effective this date.”

A spokeswoman for the Uvalde school district, Anne Marie Espinoza, declined to say whether Mr Arredondo would continue to be paid on leave.

Another officer will assume the duties of the embattled chief, Mr Harrell said.

Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a state Senate hearing on Tuesday that Mr Arredondo made “horrible decisions” as the May 24 massacre approached, and that the police response was a “gross failure”.

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Steven McCraw says parents begged police outside the school to let them in and students inside the classroom repeatedly called on 911 operators for help (Eric Gay/AP)

Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, there were enough armed laws in place to deter the gunman, Mr McCraw testified. Yet police officers armed with rifles waited in the school hallway for more than an hour while the gunman carried out the massacre.

Mr McCraw said the classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there was no indication that officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside.

The colonel said parents begged the police outside the school to let them in and that students inside the classroom repeatedly pleaded with 911 operators for help, while more than a dozen officers waited in a hallway. Were. Officials from other agencies urged Mr Arredondo to let him in because the children were in danger.

“The only thing preventing the dedicated officers’ hallways from entering Rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to put the officers’ lives before the children’s lives,” McCraw said.

Mr. Arredondo has tried to defend his actions, telling the Texas Tribune that he does not consider himself the commander in charge of operations and has assumed that someone else has taken control of the law enforcement response.

He said he didn’t have police and campus radios, but used his cellphone to stash tactical gear, a sniper and classroom keys.

It is still unclear why it took the police so long to enter the classroom, how they communicated with each other during the attack and what their body cameras showed.

Officials have declined to release further details, citing the investigation.

Mr. Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalde and spent most of his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in the city. He took the job of chief police in the school district in 2020 and was sworn in as a member of the city council in a closed-door ceremony on May 31.