Uvalde school board fires police chief Pete Arredondo

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UVALDE, Texas — The Uvalde School Board voted unanimously to fire Pedro “Pete” Arredondo on Wednesday, three months after the police chief was accused of bungling the response to the massacre that killed 19 students. and two dead teachers at Robb Elementary.

The decision came after more than an hour of closed-door discussion and a written plea from Arredondo’s lawyers for him to be reinstated.

Community members called Arredondo shoot since learning he had delayed ordering officers to confront the shooter – instead he spent over an hour asking for equipment and trying to get a key of the room, which would have been unlocked. The crowd erupted in applause when Arredondo’s shot was approved.

Members of the Uvalde School Board voted unanimously to fire Police Chief Pete Arredondo on August 24 after members of the community demanded his dismissal. (Video: Dolly Schultz via Storyful)

The Uvalde native had led the district’s six-member police force since March 2020 and writes the district active shooter protocols. According to these directives, Arredondo should have appointed himself as the incident commander, but on May 24 he did not assume this role, a Texas House Committee investigation in the slaughter concluded. He also incorrectly assessed the situation as a barricaded subject, rather than an active shooter who needed to be immediately confronted.

The Texas House report noted that there were nearly 400 officers at the scene – including 149 from the US Border Patrol and 91 from the Texas Department of Public Safety – each of whom could have taken the lead but did not. . Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the worst US school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Arredondo, 50, defended his actions to House investigators, saying he was only a responding officer and did not consider himself the incident commander. He didn’t know what was going on inside the classroom, he said, and had no adequate communication with law enforcement outside the building or in the hallway. opposite.

Arredondo resigned his seat on the city council after being sworn in a few days after the shooting. School district leaders had placed him on administrative leave, but since the release of the Texas House investigation have signaled they would fire him.

Neither Arredondo nor his attorney, George Hyde, was present at the school board meeting, saying in a 17-page written statement that they were denied the opportunity to participate safely. Hyde accused angry locals of “going after” them and said his client had also received death threats following the shooting.

Arredondo’s legal team argues the district violated the former police chief’s due process rights, saying officials did not share the results of an internal investigation or provide him with any information. formal complaint letter. Hyde said Arredondo was unaware there were students in the classroom during the shooting and had called for better fencing, training and equipment more than a year before the massacre.

His lawyer compared Arredondo’s dismissal to a quest for revenge and said his client wanted his job back with back pay and benefits.

“Understandably, those affected lash out and seek more retaliation by identifying a new target to focus their grief on, in the belief that this will help them stop suffering,” Hyde wrote. “Unfortunately, that will not be the case. ‘Two fakes don’t make a real one.’ Punishment will bring no one back; it’s a vain reward, and it will only spread more pain and pain in an unfair and biased way.

Relatives of the shooting victims filled the front rows of the Uvalde High School auditorium carrying large photos of their children and wearing the orange and maroon t-shirts that have become synonymous with their grief. They demanded to know why Arredondo had not yet been fired and said the healing would not begin until he was at work. They pleaded for school officials to terminate the police chief in their presence and not behind closed doors.

A council member read a law authorizing the closed session, and officials left the stage as the audience shouted and chanted. Troops from the Texas Department of Public Safety emerged from the edges of the stage as tensions erupted.

Once the school board left, the families commandeered the microphone and the meeting turned into an open forum.

“I miss my best friend. His brothers miss him,” said Felicia Martinez, mother of deceased Xavier Lopez, 10. “Three months and we have an eternity to live. I don’t know how we’re going to do this .

The school massacre mobilized the Uvaldeans channel their grief and anger to push their community to tackle long-simmering issues. Some, like Uvalde’s pediatrician Roy Guerrero, focus on gun measurements. Others, like parent Adam Martinez, whose young son was at Robb Elementary on the day of the shooting but escaped unscathed, are organizing parents to ask tough questions of school officials and raise money for neighbors in difficulty. Others find their voice in activism and perhaps run for political office.

Some hoped that Arredondo’s dismissal would give the community some sense of responsibility. But others said they believed there was still a lot of work to do to fix a school system they blame for failing to keep their children safe.

“For me, it has to be a clean slate,” said Maria Hernandez, a 37-year-old mother who wants to see a new board installed. “I want Uvalde to heal but at the same time to heal without pushing for any type of change…I don’t think we can afford that.”

The job as head of the school was a homecoming for Arredondo, an experienced lawyer from Texas who was no stranger to danger. He previously worked at the Webb County Sheriff’s Department and the Laredo Police Department near the border. A recent report from the San Antonio Express-News revealed that Arredondo was demoted while working for Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar because “he couldn’t get along with people.”

He also served as a police captain in the Laredo School District, where he helped stop a Columbine-inspired threat by two teenagers. Texas Commission of Law Enforcement records also show he was a police officer in Uvalde for 16 years.

But the goodwill and reputation Arredondo had built eroded as families of the victims learned more about the police response to the shooting.

“Accountability has to start somewhere,” said Diana Olvedo-Karau, who is part of a group of residents who have attended nearly every city, county and school board meeting since the shooting, sporting at every times the brown Uvalde in their wardrobe. “We can’t just let the status quo continue.”

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