On Friday, the Uvalde, Texas, School District suspended its entire police department amid criticism of their handling of May’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary that killed 19 students and two teachers.
In a statement issued to the Texas Tribune, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said director of student services Ken Mueller decided to retire upon learning that he and acting police chief, lieutenant Miguel Hernandez, were placed on leave. Police officers in the department will be appointed to other roles in the district, officials said.
The school district said they issued the department-wide suspension due to “recent developments that have uncovered additional concerns with department operations.” The Austin American-Statesman reported that Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will provide security for campuses in the school district.
Texas Department of Public Safety director Colonel Steven McCraw called the response to the May 24 shooting an “abject failure” and blamed Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde school district police. Arredondo was fired in August.
McCraw said Arredondo failed to promptly confront 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos despite being the on-scene commander. McCraw said Arredondo had what he needed to breach the classroom where the gunman was within three minutes, but officers stayed in the hallway for 77 minutes.
Video footage obtained suggests that officers stood by after the initial gunfire, even as the gunman fired four additional rounds. Officers remained inactive even after asking for keys to a presumably unlocked classroom and gathering tear gas, gas masks, and a sledgehammer.
An officer is heard saying they are “making entry” at one point, but it does not occur.
Various agencies responded to the scene, including Texas Rangers, U.S. Border Patrol, and U.S. Marshals Service. Despite this, it was an hour and 14 minutes before anyone entered the classroom and fatally shot Ramos. By then, 21 people died in that classroom.
Arredondo told the media that he did not bring his two radios as he believed they would weigh him down. He also claimed he spent an hour trying to unlock a classroom door that separated him and the gunman.
However, officials now believe Ramos had barricaded himself in an unlocked classroom, and students waited more than an hour to be rescued.
Further, security footage reportedly showed that police never tried to open the classroom door — which would contradict Arredondo’s claims that he spent an hour in the hallway trying to locate a key that would open the door.
Earlier this week, Department of Public Safety trooper Crimson Elizondo was hired to school district police — only to be fired as she faced backlash for her response to May’s mass school shooting.
Elizondo resigned from the Department of Public Safety over the summer, before she was hired by the school police department. She reportedly responded to the mass shooting within two minutes, but bodycam footage caught her standing alongside 91 other DPS officers who waited 77 minutes to take down the gunman.
In the video, someone was heard asking Elizondo whether she had any children in the school.
“If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside,” she said. “I promise you that.”
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[Featured image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong]