The Uvalde school system sacked police chief Pete Arredondo on Wednesday under pressure in the grieving Texas town to discipline policemen for letting a gunman at Robb Elementary School remain in a fourth-grade classroom for more than an hour with an AR-15 style rifle.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District trustees fired Arredondo in front of parents and horror survivors. Arredondo is the first cop to lose his job after one of the bloodiest school shootings in U.S. history.
His dismissal came three months to the day after the incident and fewer than two weeks before students return to Uvalde, where some children are too terrified to enter a classroom.
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Some parents left an auditorium in tears after the vote. Uvalde locals demanded accountability from other officers.
As the meeting began, some in the audience yelled “coward.”
Arredondo, who has been on leave since June 22, has been under the most scrutiny of the almost 400 cops who came to school yet waited more than 70 minutes to face the 18-year-old gunman.
Arredondo was criticized for not acting sooner. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo led the attack response.
Arredondo’s attorney released a 4,500-word letter minutes before the school board meeting, defending the police chief’s actions. Over 17 defiant pages, Arredondo is not a bumbling school police chief blamed for not taking authority and wasting time seeking for keys to a probable unlocked door, but a brave cop whose level-headed judgments saved other students’ lives.
Arredondo allegedly alerted the district about security difficulties a year before the shooting and said he wasn’t in charge. The letter also accused Uvalde school authorities of endangering his safety by not allowing him to bring a firearm to the school board meeting, citing “real threats of harm to the public and to Chief Arredondo.”
“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who should be recognized for the lives saved, not demonized for those they couldn’t reach,” George Hyde wrote.
After the vote, Hyde’s office didn’t comment.
Many victims’ relatives and community members have called for Arredondo’s dismissal. Superintendent Hal Harrell attempted to remove Arredondo in July, but the police chief’s attorney asked for a delay.
Ruben Torres, father of survivor Chloe Torres, attended the conference. As a Marine, he signed an oath he gladly executed and doesn’t understand why officers don’t intervene when leadership fails.
Torres: “Being young, she’s having trouble handling this awful tragedy.”
Shirley Zamora, a student’s mother, said Arredondo’s dismissal shouldn’t end accountability.
“This is the start. She remarked, “It’s long.”
Only one other officer, Uvalde Police Department Lt. Mariano Pargas, was placed on leave for their actions during the shooting.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 troopers at the scene, is investigating state police’s response. Uvalde Democrat Roland Gutierrez says state police chief McCraw warrants inquiry.
“If we fail so severely that people are hurt, we need more accountability,” he said. “If accountability means losing your job, fine.”
Robb Elementary’s facility won’t be used when classes resume Sept. 6. Elementary school pupils who are reluctant to return to school in person will be taught at other Uvalde sites.
School administrators will offer a virtual academy. The district has not indicated how many pupils would attend online, but a new legislation imposed in Texas after the epidemic limited the amount to 10% of all registered students in a school system.
The Texas Education Agency said Uvalde hasn’t requested a waiver to exceed the limit.
Uvalde’s school system has installed 8-foot, non-scalable perimeter fencing at elementary, middle, and high schools. Officials say they’ve added security cameras, strengthened locks, and improved communication.