Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief Pete Arredondo was in charge and mistakenly thought there were no other kids alive in the room once the shooter had barricaded himself inside
Residents of Uvalde, Texas and their supporters are expressing fury at the local police chief after state officials said he was no longer cooperating with their probe into last week’s school shooting.
Pete Arredondo, head of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) Police, has been fiercely criticized by state officials, the media and grieving parents for failing to send his officers into Robb Elementary School when it was attacked last week.
Arredondo believed that the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Rolando Ramos, was barricaded alone inside the building, and waited over an hour before breaching the classrooms – where 19 children and two teachers had been killed.
Uvalde local Juan Torres, a U.S. Army veteran who was visibly upset with reports coming out about the police response, told the AP this week that he knew Arredondo from high school.
‘You sign up to respond to those kinds of situations,’ said Torres. ‘If you are scared, then don’t be a police officer. Go flip burgers.’
Others took to Facebook to express their frustration. ‘What would he do if the call said officers down,’ asked Donald Haga.
US Customs and Border Protection agents (left) are seen alongside local police (center) and sheriff’s deputies (right) working to rescue kids from Robb Elementary on May 24
Texas resident Nicole Chris Leal commented in response to an article about Arredondo: ‘As a mother I would of ran in to save my kids. I would of gave my life for any Child. Such a sorry excuse for man.’
However, others remarked that Arredondo was exercising his right to remain silent, and pointed out that the shooter was ultimately to blame in the tragedy.
‘The man made a mistake, a big one. But he was not the evil SOB that went in an unlocked door and murdered those sweet babies. Lay blame at the right feet,’ commented Janie Sue Heizer on Facebook.
On Tuesday, Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas DPS, said Arredondo had stopped assisting their inquiries.
‘Uvalde and Uvalde CISD departments have been cooperating with investigators,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘The chief of the CISD did an initial interview but has not responded to a request for a followup interview that was made two days ago.’
A man and a boy visit a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Sunday to pay their respects for the victims killed in a school shooting
Fifteen minutes later, Considine clarified that other members of the departments were cooperating with the state probe, and told Dallas News: ‘Uvalde PD and Uvalde ISD are cooperating.
‘Plenty of their personnel have done interviews and given statements to investigators, so it’s absolutely wrong to characterize both those departments as not being cooperative.’
The investigators are trying to determine the facts surrounding last week’s murder in Uvalde, amid widespread anger at a confusing and contradictory explanation of what happened. In particular, people have questioned why it took so long to end Ramos’s rampage.
The Texas force opened an investigation as a matter of routine. In addition, on Sunday the federal Department of Justice announced they too were launching an inquiry.
Texas’ largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, issued a statement on Tuesday urging its members to ‘cooperate fully’ with investigations into the police response to the Uvalde massacre. The statement did not mention Arredondo by name.
On Tuesday, Arredondo was sworn is as an Uvalde city council member in a private ceremony.
Mayor Don McLaughlin is seen on the day after the shooting in his city, visiting the school where it happened
‘Uvalde City Council members were sworn in today as per the City Charter,’ Mayor Don McLaughlin announced.
‘Out of respect for the families who buried their children today, and who are planning to bury their children in the next few days, no ceremony was held.’
McLaughlin, conscious of the anger directed at Arredondo, said on Monday the ceremony would not be held.
‘Our focus on Tuesday is on our families who lost loved ones,’ he said.
‘We begin burying our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week’s murders at Robb Elementary School. The special City Council meeting will not take place as scheduled.’
He also defended Arredondo’s place on the council, despite inquiries into his handling of the massacre being launched by both the Texas department of public safety and, in an unusual move, the Department of Justice.
‘There is nothing in the City Charter, Election Code, or Texas Constitution that prohibits him from taking the oath of office,’ McLaughlin said.
‘To our knowledge, we are currently not aware of any investigation of Mr Arredondo.’
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a Friday news conference that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting.
Pallbearers carry the casket of Amerie Jo Garza following funeral services at Sacred Heart Catholic Church Tuesday in Uvalde on Tuesday
Garza was one of the students killed in last week’s shooting at Robb Elementary School
The 50-year-old Arredondo has spent much of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in Uvalde, returning in 2020 to take the head police job at the school district.
When Arredondo was a boy, Maria Gonzalez used to drive him and her children to the same school where the shooting happened. ‘He was a good boy,’ she said.
‘He dropped the ball maybe because he did not 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 didn’t want to give her name, said one of her granddaughters was at the school during the shooting but wasn’t hurt.
After his election to the non-salaried spot on the City Council, Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News earlier this month that he was ‘ready to hit the ground running.’
‘I have plenty of ideas, and I definitely have plenty of drive,’ he said, adding he wanted to focus not only on the city being fiscally responsible but also making sure street repairs and beautification projects happen.
At a candidates´ forum before his election, Arredondo said: ‘I guess to me nothing is complicated. Everything has a solution. That solution starts with communication. Communication is key.’
People grieve and embrace outside of Amerie Jo Garza’s, 10, funeral service on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. Amerie was of the 19 students killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary
McCraw said Friday that minutes after the gunman entered the school, city police officers entered through the same door. Over the course of more than an hour, law enforcement from multiple agencies arrived on the scene. Finally, 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 that students and teachers had repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while Arredondo told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway.
That directive – which goes against established active-shooter protocols – prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers didn’t act faster.
‘The truth will come out,’ said a man answering the door at Arredondo’s home
Two law enforcement officials have said that as the gunman fired at students, law enforcement officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were in danger. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.
In his Monday statement, McLaughlin, the Uvalde mayor, pushed back on officials´ claims, including remarks made over the weekend by Texas´ lieutenant governor, that they weren´t told the truth about the massacre.
McLaughlin said in that statement that local law enforcement hadn’t made any public comments about the investigation’s specifics or misled anyone.
But in his Tuesday statement, McLaughlin, noting that ’emotions are raw, and hearts are broken,’ said he ‘misunderstood’ statements he thought Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had said.
Arredondo started out his career in law enforcement working for the Uvalde Police Department.
After spending 16 years there, he went to Laredo, a border city located 130 miles miles to the south, where he worked at the Webb County Sheriff’s Office and then for a local school district, according to a 2020 article in the Uvalde Leader-News on his return to his hometown to take the school district police chief job.
The school district’s board of trustees approved his appointment to the spot.
Arredondo, who spoke only briefly at two short news conferences on the day of the shooting, appeared behind state officials speaking at news conferences over the next two days, but was not present at McCraw’s Friday news conference
According to the Uvalde school district’s website, the police force led by Arredondo also has five other officers and a security guard.
Ray Garner, the police chief of the district in Laredo where Arredondo worked, told the San Antonio Express-News in a story published after the Uvalde shooting that when Arredondo worked in the Laredo district he was ‘easy to talk to’ and was concerned about the students.
‘He was an excellent officer down here,’ Garner told the newspaper . ‘Down here, we do a lot of training on active-shooter scenarios, and he was involved in those.’
Arredondo, who spoke only briefly at two short news conferences on the day of the shooting, appeared behind state officials speaking at news conferences over the next two days, but was not present at McCraw’s Friday news conference.
After that news conference, members of the media converged at Arredondo’s home and police cruisers took up posts there. Arredondo has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
At one point, a man answering the door at Arredondo’s house told a reporter for the AP that Arredondo was ‘indisposed.’
‘The truth will come out,’ said the man before closing the door.
On Tuesday, Travis Considine, chief communications officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo had not responded to DPS interview requests for two days, Considine said.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that he’s asking a lot of questions after ‘so many things went wrong.’
He said one family told him that a first responder told them that their child, who was shot in the back, likely bled out. ‘So, absolutely, these mistakes may have led to the passing away of these children as well,’ Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said while the issue of which law enforcement agency had or should have had operational control is a ‘significant’ concern of his, he’s also ‘suggested’ to McCraw ‘that it´s not fair to put it on the local (school district) cop.’
‘At the end of the day, everybody failed here,’ Gutierrez said.