The Uvalde School District on Wednesday, amid mounting pressure in the grieving Texas city, fired Police Chief Pete Arredondo to punish officers for firing a Robb Elementary school gunman for more than an hour with an AR-15 rifle in a classroom fourth grade left 19 children and two teachers were killed.
After a unanimous vote, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees released Arredondo in an auditorium of parents and survivors of the May 24 massacre. Arredondo, who did not attend the meeting, becomes the first officer to lose his job after one of the deadliest classroom shootings in US history.
His fall came exactly three months to the day after the tragedy and less than two weeks before pupils go back to school in Uvalde, where some children are too frightened or scarred to go back into a classroom.
Cheers from the crowd followed the vote, and some parents walked out of a lecture hall in tears. Outside, several residents of Uvalde called for other officers to be held accountable.
“Coward,” cried some in the audience as the meeting began.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, faced the most intense scrutiny of the nearly 400 officers who rushed to the school but waited more than 70 minutes to confront the 18-year-old gunman in a fourth-grade classroom.
Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to act sooner.
Col Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo was responsible for law enforcement’s response to the attack.
Minutes before the Uvalde school board meeting began, Arredondo’s lawyer released a scathing 4,500-word letter that was the police chief’s fullest defense yet of his actions. Across 17 defiant pages, Arredondo is not a fumbling school cop who is accused by a scathing state investigation of not taking charge and wasting time searching for keys to a likely unlocked door, but a courageous cop whose level-headed decisions Students have saved lives of others.
Arredondo is said to have warned the county about a variety of school safety issues a year before the shooting and claims he was not responsible for the scene.
The letter also accused Uvalde school officials of jeopardizing his safety by not letting him carry a gun to school board meetings should he attend, citing “legitimate dangers to the public and to Chief Arredondo.”
“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who, along with all the other police officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved rather than vilified for those they could not reach in time,” wrote George Hyde .
After the vote, Hyde’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Uvalde school officials are under increasing pressure from victims’ families and the community, many of whom have called for Arredondo’s termination. Superintendent Hal Harrell initially fired Arredondo in July but delayed the decision at the request of the police chief’s attorney.
Among those who attended the meeting was Ruben Torres, father of Chloe Torres, who survived the shooting in room 112 of the school.
He said that as a former Marine he took an oath which he faithfully and willingly carried out and did not understand why officers did not act when leadership failed.
“Right now, as a young woman, she’s having a hard time dealing with this horrific event,” Torres said.
Shirley Zamora, the mother of a Robb Elementary student, said accountability should not end with Arredondo’s dismissal.
“This should only be the beginning. It’s a long process,” she said.
Just one other officer – Lt. Mariano Pargas of the Uvalde Police Department, who was the city’s acting police chief on the day of the massacre – was known to have been suspended for his actions during the shooting.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 state police officers on the scene, has also launched an internal investigation into the state police response. State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat representing Uvalde, said McCraw, the state police chief, also deserves consideration.
“If you fail at something so badly that people get hurt, we certainly have to take a little more responsibility,” he said. “And responsibility means losing your job, so be it.”
School officials have said Robb Elementary’s campus will no longer be used when students return on September 6.
Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for primary school students, not all of whom are willing to return to school in person after the shooting.
School officials say a virtual academy will be offered to students. The district hasn’t said how many students will participate virtually, but a new state law passed in Texas last year in the wake of the pandemic limits the number of eligible students receiving distance learning to “10% of all enrolled students within one.” particular school system”.
Schools can apply for an exemption to exceed the limit, but Uvalde has not done so, according to the Texas Education Agency.
New measures to improve school safety in Uvalde include “six-foot-tall, non-scalable fencing” at elementary, middle and high schools, according to the school district. Officials say they’ve also installed additional security cameras, upgraded locks, improved training for district employees and improved communications.
https://www.independent.ie/news/uvalde-school-board-fires-police-chief-after-mass-shooting-41935988.html The Uvalde school board fires the police chief after a mass shooting