US: Uvalde school board vote to fire police chief criticised for shooting response

The deadly massacre killed 19 children and two teachers

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Photos: AP
Photos: AP

By Reuters

Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 8:42 AM

On Wednesday, Texas' Uvalde school board fired the district's embattled police chief for his much-criticised handling of the response to a shooting rampage, that killed 19 children and two teachers in the city, three months ago.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to fire Pete Arredondo, to the applause of the family members of victims who attended.

Arredondo, who led a small police force tasked with patrolling the school grounds, had been on unpaid administrative leave since shortly after the May 24 shooting.

He did not attend the meeting. A written statement from his attorney, George Hyde, was emailed to board members just before the board met. It cited the death threats that he had received, and pointed out the district's lack of efforts to provide any protection for him. Hyde also wrote that the district was in the wrong for dismissing Arredondo, saying it did not carry out any investigation "establishing evidence supporting a decision to terminate" him.

Arredondo has come under scathing criticism for his handling of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small town in Texas Hill Country, about 129 km west of San Antonio.

Parents of children slain and wounded in the deadliest US school shooting in nearly a decade had demanded the school board dismiss Arredondo.

He was forced to resign his seat on the Uvalde City Council on July 2. Three weeks later, the board was scheduled to decide Arredondo's fate as the school district police chief, but postponed the meeting due to "process requirements", at the request of his attorney.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Arredondo acted as "incident commander" in charge of law enforcement's response to the shooting.

DPS officials said 19 officers waited for an hour in a hallway outside adjoining classrooms, where the gunman was holed up with his victims, before a US Border Patrol-led tactical team finally made entry and killed the suspect.

He chose not to send officers to confront the suspect sooner, believing the immediate threat to students had abated, after an initial burst of gunfire in the classrooms.

Arredondo, who oversaw a six-member police force before he was fired, has said he never considered himself the incident commander, and that he did not order the police to hold back on storming the suspect's position.


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