Robb Elementary School shooting: Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell recommends firing Police Chief Pete Arredondo

UVALDE, Texas — Uvalde school officials will decide the fate of District Police Chief Pete Arredondo at a special meeting Saturday after Superintendent Hal Harrell recommended the police chief be fired.

The reunion comes nearly two months after Arredondo was among the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the scene of Texas’ worst school shooting.

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Blame for the fiercely criticized response to the massacre — in which law enforcement waited more than an hour to confront the shooter — largely fell on Arredondo, the Texas Tribune reports. The district placed him on administrative leave about a month after the shooting.

Arredondo was head of the six-person department of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District on May 24, when an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary and killed 19 children and two teachers.

Much of the anger of Uvalde residents over the late response to the shooting was directed at Arredondo. At a school board meeting on Monday, residents berated school officials for not already firing Arredondo. They also criticized officials for what residents saw as slow attempts to improve campus safety.

Arredondo’s actions at the scene were also criticized in a Texas House committee report released on Sunday, though the report also highlighted the failure of other agencies to respond appropriately. Arredondo was among 376 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies at the scene. Responding officers, however, lacked clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the shooter, the report said.

The consensus of those interviewed by the House committee was that either Arredondo — or no one — was in charge at the scene, which several witnesses described as chaotic.

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In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Arredondo said he didn’t believe he was the incident commander at the scene. Yet, according to the school district’s active shooter response plan, authored in part by Arredondo, the district manager “would become the person controlling the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders who arrive on the scene.” .

Arredondo testified that he thought the shooter was a ‘barricaded subject’ instead of an ‘active shooter’ after seeing an empty classroom next to where the shooter was standing when the shooter had already fired more 100 shots in less than three minutes.

“In hindsight, we now know that was a terrible and tragic mistake,” the House report said.

READ MORE: Uvalde report describes ‘shortcomings and failures’ before, in deadly school shooting

Despite Arredondo’s eventual understanding that there were likely injuries and fatalities in the classroom with the shooter, the approach to the barricaded subject did not change throughout the incident, the report adds. In the event of an incident involving an active shooter, training instructs law enforcement to prioritize the lives of innocent victims over the lives of officers.

The report criticized Arredondo’s focus on finding a key to open the door to the room the shooter was in, which “consumed his attention and wasted valuable time, delaying the breach of the rooms of class”. The report acknowledged that it is unclear whether Arredondo would have acted differently to respond with more urgency had he learned of the injured victims.

In addition to serving as the school district’s police chief, Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde City Council weeks before the shooting. But he only took the oath after the massacre. After missing several meetings, Arredondo resigned from his District 3 seat to “minimize other distractions”.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates — and engages with — Texans about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.

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