(CNN) — The Uvalde school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to immediately terminate the contract of district police chief Pete Arredondo, three months after an armed teenager took the lives of 19 children and two teachers at the school. Robb Elementary.
The board made its decision in a closed session that lasted nearly an hour and a half. Several members of the audience applauded after the decision was announced. One person was heard repeatedly yelling, “We’re not done.”
Arredondo did not attend the meeting. Instead, his attorney issued a 17-page press release saying the district was not following due process when they moved to fire Arredondo and that the police chief was concerned for his safety.
In the statement, issued less than an hour before the meeting began, Arredondo’s attorney, George Hyde, argued that a letter from the district suspending him without pay does not count as an official “complaint” required by law to consider dismissal.
“Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests that the Board reinstate him immediately, with all payments and benefits in arrears, and close the complaint as unfounded,” the statement concludes.
Hyde said that because of the death threats, Arredondo did not feel the board meeting was safe.
Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department since March 2020, was identified by state authorities as the commander on scene during the mass shooting in which a gunman entered adjoining classrooms on May 24. and killed the children and teachers.
Multiple law enforcement officers arrived at the school within minutes, but allowed the attacker to remain in the classrooms for 77 minutes before finally entering and killing him, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) timeline. in English), which leads a review of the incident. The lengthy delay contradicted widely-taught protocol for active shooter situations that requires police to immediately stop the threat.
Arredondo, in the eye of the hurricane
Arredondo has come under intense public scrutiny for the police response to the May 24 massacre, the deadliest school shooting in the United States since 2012.
Uvalde Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell had recommended that Arredondo be fired. State officials identified Arredondo as the police commander at the scene, though he has said he did not consider himself in charge.
The attacker remained in two adjoining classrooms for more than an hour before officers entered the rooms and killed him, authorities say. The delay contradicted widely-taught protocol for active shooter situations that requires police to immediately stop the threat and occurred even as children inside repeatedly called 911 and pleaded for help.
In his statement for Arredondo, Hyde says the chief was not notified between June 22 and July 19 of a school district investigation and was not asked to participate or give a statement.
“The district cannot hold onto your information for months, present only what it finds to support to the Superintendent, and then release it without a reasonable opportunity to review it and opportunity to discover impeachment or optional evidence of integrity.”
Wednesday’s meeting comes after heated school board sessions in which parents demanded that Arredondo and other members of the school system be fired, and after several instances in which officials criticized the police response to the shooting. in hearings and an investigative report from the Texas House of Representatives.
One report described law enforcement’s ‘lackluster approach’
In 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 Arredondo for the failure. The commander on the scene, McCraw said, was “the only thing” preventing officers from entering classrooms to confront the gunman.
But Arredondo told a Texas House investigative committee that he did not consider himself the commander of the incident, echoing comments he made to the Texas Tribune in June.
In a preliminary report released July 17, the Texas House panel assigned responsibility more broadly, outlining a series of failures by multiple law enforcement agencies.
The 77-page report described “an overall nonchalant approach” by the 376 responding local, state and federal law enforcement officers who were at the school.
“There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motive,” the report says. “Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision-making.”
The report also notes that others could have taken over. Advanced law enforcement rapid response training “teaches that any law enforcement officer can take command, that someone should take command, and that an incident commander can transfer responsibility as an incident unfolds,” He says.
“That did not happen at Robb Elementary, and the lack of effective incident command is a major factor that caused other vital steps not to be taken,” according to the report.
In that report, Arredondo said that his approach was “to respond like a police officer” and that he therefore “did not act with a title.”
However, at least one responding officer expressed the belief that Arredondo was leading the police response inside the school and told others that the “boss is in charge,” according to a Texas Department of Public Safety timeline. .
Hyde said in Wednesday’s news release that Arredondo was “courageous, led other officers to save lives, and took all reasonable steps to prevent further injury or loss of life, as required by active attacker protocol.”
Communication was interrupted during the Uvalde massacre
The report attributed some of the response failures to a communication breakdown, in which information known to some outside the school may not have been passed on to those inside.
“In particular, no one ensured that key decision-makers inside the building received information that the students and teachers had survived the initial flurry of gunfire, were trapped in (the classrooms), and had called for help,” he says. report.
Arredondo previously told the Texas Tribune that he left his two radios outside the school because he wanted his hands free to hold his gun.
Robb Elementary School had problems of its own, according to the investigative report, which found that poor WiFi “likely delayed the lockdown alert” on the day of the shooting. Not all teachers received the report immediately, and the school’s intercom was not used for communication during the closure.
“As a result, not all teachers received timely notice of the closure,” the report says.
In addition, the school had what the report calls “recurring problems” with doors and locks, including Room 111’s latch mechanism, which was “widely known to be defective, but was not repaired.”
“Robb Elementary School in Uvalde had a culture of non-compliance with security policies that required doors to be kept locked, which proved fatal,” the report says.
With information from Jason Hanna, Steve Almasy, Emma Tucker, Shimon Prokupecz, Dakin Andone, Rosa Flores, and Peter Nickeas