Local police have been intensively investigating their response to the attack on Robb Elementary School, in which 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed by an 18-year-old gunman.
The Uvalde School District Police Chief, who oversaw the response to the shooting at a school that killed 19 children and two teachers in Texas last month, has been suspended.
Wednesday’s announcement came a day after the chief of Texas’s public safety department called the police’s response to the May 24 attack on Robb elementary school an “abject failure.”
The local police have been intensively investigated since it was found that as many as 19 officers waited for an hour outside a couple of adjacent classrooms where the shooting took place and did nothing while children lay dead or dying inside.
A US Border Patrol tactical team eventually gained entry and killed the teenage gunman.
The practice of the police is generally to immediately confront an attacker at school, even if the policemen’s lives are endangered by doing so.
“From the outset of this horrific event, I have said the district would wait for the investigation to be completed before making any personnel decisions,” Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said in a statement.
“Due to the uncertainty that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief (Pete) Arredondo on administrative leave effective this date.”
The attack on the elementary school, which will now be demolished, shocked the United States and revived the debate about gun violence. The US Senate now appears close to passing the country’s first major gun control legislation in decades.
Arredondo, 49, has previously said he did not consider himself the commander in charge of the attack and that he had not ordered the officers to hold back. But he said officers couldn’t find a key to open the door until 77 minutes after the shooting started.
His attorney, George Hyde, told the Texas Tribune that another local, state or federal agency that arrived on the scene should have taken over.
But Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo was in charge and making “terrible decisions” that cost valuable time. He labeled the response “an abject failure”.
McCraw told a Texas Senate hearing on Tuesday that the door was unlocked and there was no evidence that officers tried to see if it was secured while others searched for a key. Meanwhile, at least two children inside used their cell phones to call for help.
Earlier on Wednesday, Texas state senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, sued the state’s Department of Public Security for access to full details of the shooting, saying the response to the massacre was “full misinformation and outright lies” from the start.