The Uvalde school board fired police chief Pete Arredondo Wednesday evening, following months of intense scrutiny and multiple investigations into law enforcement’s bungled and haphazard response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School earlier this summer.
In a unanimous vote, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s board of trustees agreed to terminate the embattled police chief’s contract effective immediately. News of Arredondo’s ouster came exactly three months after the May 24 massacre, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
According to the Associated Press, individuals present for the closed meeting — which primarily included parents and survivors of the shooting — cheered after the vote was announced. Arredondo, who has been on administrative leave since June 22, was not in attendance.
Shortly before the vote, Arredondo’s lawyer George Hyde sent a scathing 17-page letter to the press, defending his client’s actions the day of the shooting, instead blaming school officials for failing to address numerous security flaws the chief claims he identified a year prior. “Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who with all of the other law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved, instead of vilified for those they couldn’t reach in time,” Hyde wrote. “There was only one person that caused this — the shooter.” He later added: “Retribution will not bring anyone back; it is a hollow reward, and it will only spread more hurt and pain in an unjust and biased manner.”
Yet, during testimony before a state senate committee on June 21, Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw called law enforcement’s response to the shooting an “abject failure,” revealing a series of shockingly inept decisions by Arredondo — including waiting for a key needed to supposedly unlock a classroom door — directly inhibited officials from properly intervening and deescalating the situation. “Three minutes after the [shooter] entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said. “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.”
In July, an investigative report by the Texas House of Representatives concluded “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” led Uvalde law enforcement to violate school shooting protocols when they delayed confronting the shooter for 77 minutes after the gunman entered Robb Elementary. Unlike McCraw, however, the report did not single out Arredondo, instead writing that “the entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities on that tragic day.”
Lawmakers and local residents continue to demand a stronger response from officials as other law enforcement agencies, including the Uvalde Police Department, conduct further investigations into the shooting. “It’s important that this community begin a healing process and begin to try and move on,” State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, told the Austin American-Statesman. “The fact is there is a lot of accountability that still needs to be had.”
Students will not return to the site of the massacre when the school year begins on September 6. Instead, as AP notes, children will be sent to temporary classrooms at other facilities, while others will be allowed to pursue remote learning. The Robb Elementary school building, meanwhile, will be demolished.