The Texas school district superintendent, where 19 students and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting last month, has placed Pete Arredondo, the district police chief, on administrative leave.
Hal Harrell, superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, said in an announcement Wednesday that district officials planned to “wait for the investigation to be completed before making staffing decisions.”
“Today I still have no details about the investigations being conducted by various agencies,” he added. “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 Arredondo on administrative leave as of this date.”
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez will “take on the duties” of the UCISD police chief, Harrell confirmed in the announcement.
The move comes after Uvalde city council unanimously rejected a leave of absence for Arredondo, who is also a councillor, on Tuesday.
Arredondo was elected to the council on May 7. It was more than two weeks later, on May 24, when a gunman entered Robb primary school in Uvalde and barricaded himself. After more than an hour, the police stormed the classroom he was in and killed him.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, Arredondo was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting or at an earlier emergency session held shortly after the shooting. The council voted unanimously to reject Arredondo’s leave. If he misses the next two meetings, the council can dismiss him for leaving office.
Several residents of Uvalde attended the meeting to oppose Arredondo’s request for leave. “We heard our citizens loud and clear tonight,” Mayor Don McLaughlin said. “If he misses his three meetings, I’m sure Pete will go. … I’ll vote yes (to remove him).”
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Relatives of the victims of the shooting had begged city leaders to fire Arredondo. “Please, please, we beg you, get this man out of our lives,” said Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo Garza’s grandmother.
Also on Tuesday, during a hearing in the Texas State Senate, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety blamed Arredondo for preventing officers from quickly confronting the gunman. Three minutes after the gunman entered the building, there were enough officers on the scene to stop him, DPS director Steve McCraw said.
He called the police response an “abject failure” that ignored lessons from previous shootings and said Arredondo had “decided to put the lives of officers above the lives of children.”
McLaughlin criticized McCraw’s briefing, saying he and other local officials have been asked to remain silent about the shooting and law enforcement’s response as multiple investigations continue.
“They can go to Austin and make public deals to talk about it… and not share anything with this city or anyone in this community, and that’s wrong,” he said. “That’s all wrong.”
Arrendondo has said he did not consider himself responsible on the ground and assumed that another official had taken control.
Contributors: Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; Chuck Lindell and Niki Griswold, Austin American statesman; The Associated Press
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