Uvalde school board postpones meeting to discuss firing police Chief Pete Arredondo

Uvalde CISD Superintendent Hal Harrell listens to members of the community during a school board meeting Monday. The school board said it has postponed a meeting to vote on whether to terminate district police Chief Pete Arredondo over the law enforcement response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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Uvalde school officials have postponed a scheduled Saturday meeting to decide whether to fire police Chief Pete Arredondo at the superintendent’s recommendation.

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Arredondo’s lawyer asked the district to postpone the meeting amid due-process concerns, the district announced Friday afternoon. The district did not announce a new meeting date.

Arredondo remains on unpaid administrative leave.

Arredondo was among the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the scene of Texas’ worst school shooting, which occurred May 24 when an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary and killed 19 children and two teachers.

[Uvalde superintendent recommends firing police Chief Pete Arredondo]

Blame for the fiercely criticized response to the massacre — during which law enforcement waited more than an hour to confront the shooter — has largely fallen on Arredondo, who leads the six-member school district police department. The district placed him on administrative leave roughly one month after the shooting.

In a school board meeting Monday, residents chastised school officials for not already firing Arredondo. They also criticized officials for what residents saw as a lack of urgency to improve campus safety.

Arredondo’s actions at the scene were also criticized in a Texas House committee report released Sunday, though the report also points to failures by other law enforcement agencies to respond appropriately. Arredondo was among 376 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies at the scene.

The committee report said the responding officers lacked clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to more quickly confront the gunman, who was shot and killed after a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team entered the classroom where most of the victims were shot.

Arredondo was listed in the district’s active-shooter plan as the commanding officer, but the consensus of those interviewed by the House committee was that Arredondo did not assume that role and no one else took over for him, which resulted in a chaotic response.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Arredondo said he did not think he was the incident commander on the scene.

Arredondo testified that he believed the shooter was a “barricaded subject” instead of an “active shooter” after seeing an empty classroom next to the one where the shooter was hiding.

“With the benefit of hindsight, we now know this was a terrible, tragic mistake,” the House report stated.

Training for active-shooter scenarios directs law enforcement responders to prioritize the lives of innocent victims over those of officers.

The report criticized Arredondo’s focus on trying to find a key to open the door to the room the shooter was in, which “consumed his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the breach of the classrooms.” The report said the classroom door didn’t lock properly and likely wasn’t locked as police waited to confront the shooter.

In addition to serving as the school district’s police chief, Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde City Council a few weeks before the shooting, but wasn’t sworn in until after the massacre. After missing several meetings, Arredondo stepped down from his District 3 seat to “minimize further distractions.”

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Correction, Oct. 11, 2022: A previous cutline of this story wrongly identified the Uvalde ISD school official. The school official in the photo is Cal Lambert, not Hal Harrell.