The Uvalde school district’s police chief was put on leave Wednesday following allegations he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said that he put Chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave because the facts of what happened remain unclear.
In a statement, Harrell did not address Arredondo’s actions as the on-site commander during the attack but said he didn’t know when details of multiple investigations into the law enforcement response to the slayings would be revealed.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date.”
Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a state Senate hearing on Tuesday that Arredondo — the on-site commander — made “terrible decisions” as the massacre unfolded on May 24, and that the police response was an “abject” failure.”
Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered school, sufficient armed law enforcement officers were on scene to stop the gunman, McCraw testified.
Yet officers waited in a school hallway for more than an hour while the gunman carried out the massacre. The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there is no indication officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside, McCraw said.
McCraw has said parents begged police outside the school to move in and students inside the classroom repeatedly pleaded with 911 operators for help while more than a dozen officers waited in a hallway. Officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were in danger.
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said.
A spokesperson for the Uvalde school district, Anne Marie Espinoza, declined to say whether Arredondo would continue to be paid while on leave.
Another officer will assume the embattled chief’s duties, Harrell said.