Former Uvalde sheriff: ‘True grit, leadership were missing’ from shooting response

Former sheriff Charlie Mendeke says he has ‘no idea’ why command wasn’t taken away from school district chief at scene of massacre

Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills) (Dario Lopez-Mills, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

UVALDE, Texas – The former sheriff of Uvalde County said “true grit and leadership” were missing during the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

“You cannot assume there are no kids in there. He has no way of knowing that they are out of there,” former sheriff Charlie Mendeke told the Uvalde Leader-News.

The “he” Mendeke refers to is Uvalde school district chief Pete Arredondo, who made the decision to not go into the classroom, despite multiple 911 calls from students inside the classroom.

It’s still unclear exactly who was on the receiving end of those calls from the 911 dispatcher.

Mendeke told the paper that officers on the scene should have told Arredondo “to hell with this, we are going in there” and entered the classroom despite his order.

The timeline of events from the day of the shooting has been under the microscope since the tragedy occurred, and it’s estimated that roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes elapsed from when officers first confronted the shooter to when they reentered the school.

Mendeke served as Uvalde County sheriff for 12 years. He left office on Dec. 31, 2020, before handing the reigns over to current sheriff Ruben Nolasco.

“I made sure the patrol guys had rifle vests, helmets, long rifles and shotguns. You don’t retreat. You have to keep the shooter occupied,” Mendeke told Uvalde Leader-News.

He scrutinized the lack of leadership on scene the day of the massacre and said there is no such thing as a “command post” in an active-shooter situation.

“Once you hit the scene you are going in. I have no idea why other law enforcement did not take it (command) away from Pete,” Mendeke told the paper. “They (parents) were yelling ‘get in there, please get in there.’ It sickens me to hear that. You are sworn to do the duty. True grit and leadership were missing.”

Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment from various outlets. He was, however, sworn in without a public ceremony as an elected Uvalde city council member less than a week after the Uvalde school massacre.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.