Uvalde school police chief blamed for slow response to mass shooting (Video)

Chief Pete Arredondo, also a city councilor, did not follow active shooter protocols, the Texas Department of Public Safety said

A+tree+in+front+of+a+school+building+with+an+American+flag+and+yellow+crime+scene+tape.

JAE C. HONG/Associated Press

A tree in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, stands adorned with an American flag and crime scene tape, May 30, 2022. On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old entered the school and fatally shot 19 children and two teachers.

ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON and JAMIE STENGLE, Associated Press

UVALDE  — The blame for an extended delay in killing the gunman at a Texas elementary school has been placed with the school district’s homegrown police chief.

A group of people stand at an outdoor press conference, some in police uniforms.
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, May 26, 2022. Arredondo grew up in Uvalde and was elected to its city council

It’s left residents in Uvalde struggling to reconcile what they know of Pete Arredondo, the commander at the scene, after the director of state police said Arredondo made the “wrong decision” not to breach a classroom at Robb Elementary School sooner, believing the gunman was barricaded inside and children weren’t at risk.

Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom, where 19 children and two teachers were eventually killed.

Arredondo, who grew up in Uvalde, was recently elected to the Uvalde City Council and sworn in Tuesday without a ceremony, reported CNN.

Arredondo spent much of his career in law enforcement in Uvalde, and is now the school district’s head police officer. “He was a good boy,” said Maria Gonzalez, who used to drive him to Robb Elementary school. “He dropped the ball maybe because he did not have enough experience. Who knows? People are very angry.”

People are very angry.”

— Maria Gonzalez

Juan Torres, a U.S. Army veteran, knew Arredondo from high school.

“You sign up to respond to those kinds of situations,” Torres said. “If you are scared, then don’t be a police officer. Go flip burgers.”

After Arredondo’s election to the city council, he told the Uvalde Leader-News he was “ready to hit the ground running.” Arrendondo said he had drive and ideas focused on the city’s fiscal responsibility, street repairs and beautification projects.

“I guess to me nothing is complicated. Everything has a solution,” Arrendondo said at a candidates’ forum before his election.

McCraw said Friday that minutes after the gunman entered the school, city police officers entered through the same door. Over more than an hour, multiple law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene. Finally, officials said, a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.

McCraw said students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while Arredondo told officers to wait in a hallway. That directive — which goes against established active shooter protocols — prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers didn’t act faster.

Two law enforcement officials, who spoke anonymously, said that as the gunman fired at students, law enforcement officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were in danger. 

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin pushed back on officials’ claims that they weren’t told the truth about the massacre.

“Local law enforcement has not made any public comments about the specifics of the investigation or (misled) anyone,” he said Monday.

Arredondo started his career in law enforcement working for the Uvalde Police Department. After 16 years, he went to Laredo, where he worked at the Webb County Sheriff’s Office before working for a local school district, according to the Uvalde Leader-News.

Ray Garner, Arredondo’s police chief of the district in Laredo, told the San Antonio Express-News that when Arredondo worked in Laredo he was “easy to talk to” and concerned about the students.

“He was an excellent officer down here,” Garner told the newspaper. “Down here, we do a lot of training on active shooter scenarios, and he was involved in those.”

After that news conference, members of the media converged at Arredondo’s home and police cruisers took up posts there. At one point, a man answering the door at Arredondo’s house told a reporter for the Associated Press that “the truth will come out,” then closed the door.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said he’s asking a lot of questions after “so many things went wrong.”

Gutierrez said one family told him a first responder told them their child, who was shot in the back, likely bled out.

“Absolutely, these mistakes may have led to the passing away of these children as well,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said while the issue of which law enforcement agency had or should have had operational control is a “significant” concern. He also “suggested” to McCraw “that it’s not fair to put it on the local (school district) cop.”

“At the end of the day, everybody failed here,” Gutierrez said.

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