Uvalde school board votes unanimously to fire police chief Pete Arredondo

0

The board made its decision in a closed meeting that lasted nearly an hour and a half. Several members of the public cheered after the decision was announced. One person was heard repeatedly shouting, “We’re not done.”

Arredondo did not attend the meeting. His lawyer instead released a 17-page statement saying the district was not following legal process as he moved to fire Arredondo and that the police chief was concerned for his safety.

In the statement, which came less than an hour before the meeting was to start, Arredondo’s attorney, George Hyde, argued that a letter from the district suspending him without pay does not count as a ‘complaint’. official required by law to consider termination.

“Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own unlawful and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the Board to immediately reinstate him, with all back pay and benefits and to close the complaint as unfounded,” the statement concluded.

Hyde said that due to death threats, Arredondo did not believe the board meeting would be safe.

The meeting began with comments from members of the public, some of whom called on Arredondo, who was on unpaid leave, to return his badge.

Council members said Texas law requires the chief’s employment status hearing to be held behind closed doors. Upon returning from that private meeting, a board member read a motion to immediately terminate Arredondo’s uncertified contract and another to ratify his furlough status.

Arredondo has come under intense public scrutiny for law enforcement’s response to the May 24 massacre, America’s deadliest shooting since 2012.
The superintendent of schools in Uvalde recommended Arredondo’s dismissal. State officials identified Arredondo as the on-scene police commander, although he said he did not consider himself responsible.
The assailant remained in two adjacent classrooms for more than an hour before officers entered the rooms and killed him, authorities said. The delay contradicts widely taught protocol for active shooter situations that call for police to immediately stop the threat and came even when the children inside repeatedly called 911 and asked for help.

In his statement for Arredondo, Hyde says the chief was not told between June 22 and July 19 of a school district investigation and was not asked to participate or make a statement.

“The district cannot withhold its information for months, present only what it finds to support the superintendent, and then release it without a reasonable opportunity to review it, and the opportunity to uncover evidence of impeachment. or optional completeness.”

Wednesday’s meeting comes after heated school board sessions in which parents demanded the firing of Arredondo and other members of the school system, and after several instances in which officials criticized the police response to the shooting during hearings and a Texas House investigative report.

Report describes ‘nonchalant approach’ by law enforcement

During a hearing before the Texas Senate on June 21, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety called the police response an “abject failure.” The director, Colonel Steven McCraw, blamed the failure on Arredondo, whom state authorities identified as the on-scene commander. The on-scene commander, McCraw said, was “the only thing” stopping officers from entering classrooms to engage the shooter.
But Arredondo told a Texas House Board of Inquiry he did not see himself as the incident commander – echoing comments he made at the Texas Tribune in June.
In a preliminary report released July 17, the Texas House panel laid blame more broadly, outlining a series of failures by multiple law enforcement agencies.

The 77-page report describes “a nonchalant overall approach” from the 376 local, state and federal law enforcement officers who responded and were at the school.

“There is no one to whom malicious or malicious intent can be attributed,” the report said. “Instead, we found systemic failures and grossly poor decision-making.”

The report also notes that others could have taken command. Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training “teaches that any law enforcement officer can assume command, someone must assume command, and an incident commander can transfer responsibility as and as an incident develops,” the report said.

“This did not happen at Robb Elementary, and the lack of effective incident command was a major factor in other vital actions not being taken,” according to the report.

In that report, Arredondo said his approach was to “respond as a police officer” and therefore “did not call myself.”
However, at least one of the officers who responded expressed the belief that Arredondo was leading the law enforcement response inside the school, telling others that the “chief is in charge,” according to a timeline of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Following heavy criticism, Uvalde School District Superintendent Hal Harrell placed Arredondo — who has served as the school district’s police chief since March 2020 — on leave from his position as school police chief on 22 June.

Separately, Arredondo resigned from his position on the Uvalde city council in early July, and the council accepted the resignation on July 12.

‘Too little, too late’

At a July 18 school board meeting – a day after the House report was released – an uncle of one of the children killed angrily asked why Arredondo was still employed.
“Why the hell does he still have a job with you all?” Brett Cross, an uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, asked the board, adding that he wanted the members to resign if Arredondo was not fired the next day. “Because you all don’t care about our children or us. Stay with us or against us, because we’re not going anywhere.”
Uvalde's parents are calling on the school board to burn down the district police chief:
To fire Arredondo now, Cross told CNN later that week, would be “too little, too late.” Cross, who had raised Uziyah as his son before the child was killed in the shooting, and other members of the community called for the school’s superintendent, board and police department to be replaced.

At a meeting on Monday evening, the school board met to consider complaints from parents asking for the superintendent’s removal. The board passed a motion that, in part, requires the superintendent to provide the board with names or organizations that could review the district’s administrative accountability practices.

Some community members present – including Cross – expressed anger at the end of the meeting, with some saying it took three hours to achieve nothing.

“Come on Wednesday,” Cross said as he and others left Monday’s meeting. “I’m sick of this bullshit.”

CNN’s Andy Rose, Eric Levenson, Rosa Flores, Matthew J. Friedman, Christina Maxouris, Shimon Prokupecz and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.