The embattled chief of the Uvalde school district’s police department was put on administrative leave Wednesday as allegations intensify that he erred in his response to last month’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers before a Border Patrol tactical team entered the classroom where he was and killed him, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Texas Department of Public Safety chief Col Steven McCraw has called the police response an “abject failure” and said school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo made “terrible decisions” as incident commander on site.
But Arredondo denies being incident camera and says he didn’t even bring his police radios to the scene because they were too cumbersome. Audio and video of the scene, however, shows the chief giving orders and other officers waiting — for more than an hour — for an order to breach the classroom.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said he made the decision to put Arredondo on leave because investigators, who testified about the response this week at a state Senate committee meeting, have been unclear about what happened that day, the Associated Press reported.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Because of 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 on this date.”
Harrell’s decision came a day after the Uvalde City Council unanimously denied Arredondo’s request for a leave of absence from his duties as a councilmember. He was sworn in as a councilmember in secret just days after the massacre.
McCraw told the state committee that sufficient law enforcement was on site and ready to breach the classroom where gunman Salvador Ramos was within minutes of his arrival there. Yet Arredondo was on the phone requesting more personnel and more arms, even as students inside the classroom called 911 and begged for help — calls Arredondo knew nothing about because he’d left behind his radios. No order to breach the classroom came for 77 minutes, when Arredondo said that a tactical team could go in “if they were ready.”
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin is backing Arredondo, accusing state agencies of putting out false information and calling the Senate hearing a “clown show.”
Uvalde school district officials didn’t say if Arredondo would be paid while he is on leave. Harrell said another officers in the six-member department would take over his duties.
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[Featured image: Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)]