Uvalde Schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo furloughed

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The Uvalde, Texas, school police chief accused of bungling the response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary last month was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday amid growing fury over to law enforcement delays in breaching the classroom.

Hal Harrell, the South Texas city’s superintendent of schools, announced the departure of Pedro “Pete” Arredondo a day after the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety lambasted the chief for being slow to respond to the shooting.including allegedly waiting for the key to an unlocked door before entering the room more than an hour after arriving on the scene.

“From the onset of this horrific event, I shared that the District would wait until the investigation was complete before making any staffing decisions,” Harrell wrote. “Today, I still do not have details of the investigations being carried out by the various agencies. Due to the remaining lack of clarity and the unknown timing at which I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave.

Arredondo’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

A veteran of several Texas law enforcement agencies, Arredondo has for the past two years served as chief of the Uvalde School District’s six-officer police department, which oversees security at eight schools in the city – including Robb Elementary. , which he said he dated decades ago.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials said that as “incident commander” during the attack, Arredondo ignored decades of accepted law enforcement practice by not deciding to enter the classroom earlier.

On June 21, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety blamed the school district police chief for the long delay before police entered Robb Elementary. (Video: The Washington Post)

Arredondo disputed parts of that account, telling the Texas Tribune that he did not see himself as the scene commander and that the classroom door was locked. State police are now investigating why it took authorities so long to enter two adjacent classrooms.

Family members of the victims had implored local officials to fire Arredondo in town hall meetings this week, with some of the speakers so overwhelmed with emotion that they struggled to finish their sentence.

“We were disappointed with Pete Arredondo. He let our kids, our teachers, our parents and our town down,” Brett Cross, the uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, told school board members Monday night. “By keeping him in your squad, you continue to fail us.”

Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo Garza’s grandmother, told a town council meeting on Tuesday that it was a “slap in the face” to see Arredondo standing at press briefings after the shooting.

Arredondo, who recently won a seat on the city council, was sworn in at a private ceremony on May 30 but had not appeared at the last two meetings. The other council members voted unanimously on Monday not to grant him a furlough, putting him at risk of losing his job.

“You do what you have to, but get it out of our faces,” Arreola said.

The development came as impacts from the May 24 shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers continue to ripple through the community. On Wednesday, the state Senate held a second day of hearings on shootings and gun violence. Meanwhile, Uvalde officials attempt to secure federal funds to demolish the elementary school building.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) said in an interview Wednesday that the South Texas School District has begun conversations about applying for a federal grant program called Project SERV, which stands for School Emergency Response to Violence. , to shave Robb Elementary School.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this space where we have to have a whole federal grant around this,” he said, “but I haven’t seen a single parent who’s in favor of keeping it. “

At Tuesday’s tense town council meeting, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin (right) reiterated his belief that the school building should be demolished

“We can never ask a child to return or a teacher to return to this school, ever,” he said.

He added that “the school will be torn down”, citing his discussions with Harrell. A spokeswoman for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, which will decide the school’s fate, did not respond to requests for comment.

After the shooting, Uvalde becomes a new stage on a sinister American circuit

Robb Elementary in working-class southwest Uvalde served as a central community space for Mexican American residents in this town of 15,000. Many of them attended Robb decades ago, when it was considered a “Mexican school” that separated them from white residents on the east side of town.

Uvalde School District officials have previously indicated that no students will be attending Robb in the fall, although they have remained silent on plans for the current building. The issue was not raised at a school board meeting on Monday evening.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona previously granted the Uvalde district $1.5 million in SERV funds, intended to “restore a sense of security” to students and teachers affected by gun violence. That pledge is specifically to fund mental health services and overtime pay for counselors, not construction or medical services, he said in a June 13 letter to Harrell.

Cardona traveled to Uvalde earlier this month to meet Mandy Gutierrez, principal of Harrell and Robb Elementary, and attend the funeral of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed in the shooting.

“During my time at Uvalde, I have seen the community come together in meaningful ways to support each other and all the families who have lost loved ones,” he wrote in the letter. “As a nation, we must do all we can to support the well-being of our children and our educators.”

Previous SERV grants have been awarded to school districts overseeing Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe High School near Houston, all of which were the site of major school shootings. last decade.

Gutierrez said school districts can apply for up to $45 million from the grant program.

Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished in 2013, a year after a shooting killed 20 children and six adults. Santa Fe students returned to their school building less than two weeks after eight students and two teachers were killed inside.

Armed Uvalde officers waited for key to unlocked door, official says

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday criticized the police response to the massacre as “an abject failure.” Steven C. McCraw described in damning detail how officers quickly entered the school, carrying shields and weapons, but left children trapped with an attacker as they waited for the key to an unlocked door .

During testimony before state lawmakers, McCraw painted a grim timeline outlining repeated police and school safety lapses during the May 24 attack.

“The officers had weapons; the children had none. The officers had bulletproof vests; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none,” McCraw said during the session at the Capitol in Austin.

Arelis R. Hernández, Timothy Bella and Mark Berman contributed to this report.

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