UVALDE, Texas (AP) – Blame for a excruciating delay in the killing of the shooter at a Texas elementary school – even as Parents outside asked the police jump in and panic Children call 911 Inside – placed with the local school district police chief.
It has left residents in the small town of Uvalde They struggle to reconcile what they know about the popular local attorney after the state police director said the commander at the scene — Pete Arredondo — made the wrong decision last week to avoid breaking into a classroom at Robb Elementary School earlier, believing the gunman was barricaded inside and children were not at risk.
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at Friday’s news conference that after the follow-up the shooter Inside the building, officers waited over an hour to break through the classroom. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting.
Arredondo, who grew up in Uvalde and graduated from high school here, was due to be sworn into his new seat on the city council on Tuesday after being elected earlier this month, but Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a statement Monday that the meeting would take place. That does not happen. It was initially not clear whether the swearing-in ceremony would take place privately or at a later date.
“Pete Arredondo was duly elected to the City Council,” McLaughlin said in the statement. “There is nothing in the charter, in the electoral code, or in the Texas constitution that prohibits him from taking the oath of office.”
Arredondo, 50, has spent much of his nearly 30-year law enforcement career in Uvalde and returned in 2020 to take on the job as the school district’s chief constable.
When Arredondo was a boy, Maria Gonzalez drove him and their children to the same school where the shooting took place. “He was a good boy,” she said.
“He might have dropped the ball because he didn’t have enough experience. Who knows? People are very angry,” Gonzalez said.
Another woman in the neighborhood where Arredondo grew up began sobbing when asked about him. The woman, who declined to be named, said one of her granddaughters was at school during the shooting but was not injured.
Juan Torres, a US Army veteran who was visibly upset by reports of the reaction, said he knew Arredondo from high school.
“They sign up to respond to situations like this,” Torres said. “If you’re scared, don’t be a cop. Go flip burgers.”
After his election to the unpaid seat on the city council, Arredondo said that Uvalde Leader News Earlier this month he was “ready to hit the ground running.”
“I have a lot of ideas, and I definitely have a lot of drive,” he said, adding he wants to focus not only on keeping the city fiscally responsible but also making sure road repairs and beautification projects are done.
Speaking at a candidate forum ahead of his election, Arredondo said: “I think nothing is complicated for me. Everything has a solution. This solution starts with communication. Communication is key.”
McCraw said Friday that minutes after the shooter entered the school, Metropolitan Police officers entered through the same door. Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies arrived at the scene over the course of more than an hour. Eventually, officials said, a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.
McCraw said students and teachers repeatedly called 911 operators for help, while Arredondo asked more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. This directive – which speaks against it established active shooter protocols — raised questions about whether more people died because officials didn’t act faster.
Two police officers said when the gunman shot students, police officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were in danger. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Uvalde Mayor McLaughlin dismissed the officials’ claims, including remarks by the Texas Lieutenant Governor that they had not been told the truth about the massacre. McLaughlin said in his Monday statement that local law enforcement had not made any public comments about the details of the investigation or misled anyone.
Arredondo began his law enforcement career working for the Uvalde Police Department. After spending 16 years there, he went to Laredo, a border town 135 miles south, where he worked in the Webb County Sheriff’s Office and then for a local school district, according to a 2020 article Uvalde Leader News on his return to his hometown to take the job of school district police chief. The district board of trustees approved his appointment on the spot.
According to the Uvalde School District website, the police force led by Arredondo has five other officers and a security guard.
Ray Garner, the police chief for the Laredo district where Arredondo worked, said San Antonio Express News in a story published after the Uvalde shooting, that when Arredondo worked in the Laredo neighborhood he was “easy to talk to” and worried about the students.
“He was an excellent officer down here,” Garner told the newspaper . “We train a lot on active shooter scenarios down here and he was a part of that.”
Arredondo, who spoke only briefly at two short press conferences on the day of the shooting, appeared behind state officials speaking at press conferences for the next two days but was absent from McCraw’s Friday press conference.
After this press conference, media representatives gathered at Arredondo’s house and police cruisers took up post there. On one occasion, a man who answered the door of Arredondo’s home told a reporter from The Associated Press that Arredondo was “indisposed.”
“The truth will come out,” the man said before closing the door.
On Tuesday, Travis Considine, chief communications officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo had not answered on DPS interview requests for two days, Considine said.
State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that he’s asking a lot of questions after “so many things went wrong.”
He said a family told him a first responder told them their child, who was shot in the back, probably bled to death. “So, absolutely, those mistakes could have resulted in the deaths of those kids, too,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said that while the question of which law enforcement agency had or should have had operational control was a “significant” concern of his, he also “suggested” to McCraw “that it’s not fair to give it to the local (school district) police officer.” to impose. ”
“At the end of the day, everyone failed here,” Gutierrez said.
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