Texas school shooting: Uvalde school police chief suspended after weeks of anger over botched response to gunman



CNN

For weeks, the bereaved families of children massacred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, have been calling for accountability for delayed police action in addressing the gunman.

On Tuesday, the top Texas official in charge of the investigation described the answer as an “abject failure”.

At the center of the furor has been the police chief of the school district. Pedro “Pete” Arredondo. On Wednesday, almost a month after the horrific shooting, he was discharged.

“From the beginning of this horrific event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making any personnel decisions,” Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said in a statement.

“To this day, I still do not know details of the investigations being carried out by various agencies. Due to the lack of clarity that remains and the fact that it is not known when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective this date,” he said.

Arredondo and the law enforcement agencies that responded have faced heavy criticism for the length of time Officers were stationed in a hallway outside adjoining rooms 111 and 112 at Robb Elementary, where an 18-year-old gunman and the victims were located.

The gunman fired at responding officers within the first few minutes of the shooting, two of whom received grazing wounds, according to a updated timeline of the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, it would be more than 70 minutes before the gunman was shot dead by authorities who burst into the room.

Earlier this month, Arredondo told The Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the incident commander and did not instruct the officers refrain from bursting onto the scene.

Berlinda Irene Arreola, the grandmother of a shooting victim Amerie Jo Garza, spoke at a tense city council meeting Tuesday where Arredondo was not present. The school’s police chief was elected to the council earlier this year and has stayed out of the public eye since the shooting.

“He failed us,” Arreola told council members of Arredondo. “Don’t make the same mistake he did and fail us too. Go ahead and fix it… please, please, we beg you to get this man out of our lives.”

The council later voted unanimously to deny Arredondo a leave of absence from future council meetings, and the decision was met with applause from the residents present. Under city charter, Arredondo could be removed from office if he fails to attend three consecutive city council meetings without an excuse.

Arreola spoke to CNN on Wednesday about the pain of losing 10-year-old Amerie, as well as the aftermath, and preliminary details from the investigations indicate more could have been done sooner.

“Every day it is more difficult to miss her, the pain we feel. But also with the anger that unfolds before our eyes,” Arreola said. CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

“We have to speak up for all these children, all these families. We have to do things right, we need to get to the bottom of everything that has happened and find out the truth.”

Amerie’s stepfather, Ángel Garza, was a first aid doctor to the scene of the shooting and told CNN Wednesday that he didn’t understand why police failed to act when they were stationed outside the classroom, so close to the victims.

“I just don’t understand how you can hear these kids crying and asking for help, but you’re scared to go in because your commander doesn’t want you to go in,” he said.

The parents, including himself, “were right outside” the school. “I was trying to get in, they handcuffed me,” he said, distraught that the police he trusted “didn’t save my daughter or any of the other children.”

Arredondo testified before a closed-door Texas House committee Tuesday about the day of the shooting and did not comment publicly. CNN has reached out to Arredondo’s attorney for comment.

Lt. Mike Hernandez will assume the duties of UCISD Police Chief during Arredondo’s leave of absence, according to the school district

A new report from inside Robb Elementary shows confusion swirling among officers during the standoff.

While Arredondo has received the most public criticism for the way police handled the crisis, the mayor of Uvalde was quick to signal Tuesday that he believes other law enforcement agencies should also be held accountable and provide updates to police officials. the city.

In direct comments at the city council meeting, Mayor Don McLaughlin accused DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw of shirking his department’s responsibility, noting that officers from at least eight law enforcement agencies were inside Robb Elementary. during the shooting.

“Column. McCraw has continued to, whatever you want to call it, lying, leaking, misleading, or misrepresenting information to distance his own soldiers and Rangers from the answer. At each briefing, he omits the number of his own officers and Rangers who were on the scene.” that day,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin also called out leaks from unnamed sources that he said were intended to shift blame for the police response away from certain agencies and more onto local law enforcement.

“Column. McCraw has an agenda and it is not to present a full report on what happened and give factual answers about what happened to this community,” the mayor said, adding that he was meant to receive a daily report from authorities since the day after the shooting, but none have been provided.

McCraw on Tuesday at a Texas Senate Hearing accused Arredondo of ordering police to wait for unnecessary equipment and keys to a door that may not have been locked as suspected.

CNN has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety for comment.

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