Uvalde school board fires police chief after mass shooting – Reuters

The Uvalde School District fired Police Chief Pete Arrendondo on Wednesday, making him the first officer to lose his job following law enforcement’s hesitant and clumsy response at Robb Elementary School as a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in a fourth grade classroom.

In a unanimous vote that came after months of angry calls for his ousting, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees fired Arredondo to an auditorium of parents and survivors of the May 24 massacre . His ousting came three months to the day after one of the deadliest classroom shootings in US history.

Crowd cheers followed the vote and some parents walked out in tears.

“Cowardly!” some onlookers shouted as the meeting began.

Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, came under intense scrutiny from the nearly 400 officers who rushed to the school but waited more than an hour to confront the 18-year-old shooter. years in fourth grade. Classroom.

Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to act sooner. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Arredondo was responsible for law enforcement’s response to the attack.

Arredondo was not present with his career at stake.

Instead, minutes before the start of the Uvalde school board meeting, Arredondo’s attorney released a scathing 4,500-word letter that was the police chief’s most comprehensive defense to date. of his actions. Over 17 provocative pages, Arredondo isn’t the fumbling school police chief who a damning state inquest blamed for failing to take command and wasting time looking for keys to a door probably unlocked, but a brave officer whose measured decisions have saved the lives of other students.

He alleges Arrendondo warned the district about various school safety issues a year before the shooting and claimed he was not responsible for the scene. The letter also accused Uvalde school officials of putting his safety at risk by not letting him carry a gun to the school board meeting, citing “legitimate risks of harm to the public and Chief Arredondo.” “.

“Chief Arredondo is a courageous leader and officer who, along with all other law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved, instead of vilified for those they couldn’t reach in time,” Hyde wrote.

Uvalde school officials have come under increasing pressure from the families of the victims and members of the community, many of whom have called for Arredondo to be fired. Superintendent Hal Harrell initially decided to fire Arredondo in July, but postponed the decision at the request of the police chief’s attorney.

Among those present at the meeting was Ruben Torres, father of Chloe Torres, who survived the shooting in room 112 at the school. He said that as a former Marine, he took an oath that he faithfully carried out of his own free will and did not understand why officers did not step in when leadership failed.

“Right now, being young, she’s having a hard time dealing with this horrible event,” Torres said.

Arredondo is the first officer fired due to law enforcement’s hesitant and clumsy response to the May 24 tragedy. Only one other officer – Lt. Mariano Pargas of the Uvalde Police Department, who was the city’s acting police chief on the day of the massacre – is known to have been placed on leave for his actions during the shooting.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, which had more than 90 state troopers at the scene, also launched an internal investigation into the state police response.

School officials said the Robb Elementary campus will no longer be used. Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for elementary students, not all of whom are willing to return to school in person after the shooting.

School officials say a virtual academy will be offered to students. The district did not specify how many students will participate virtually, but a new state law passed last year in Texas in the wake of the pandemic limits the number of eligible students receiving remote instruction to “10% of all students enrolled in a given school system”.

Schools can request a waiver to exceed the limit, but Uvalde has not done so, according to Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Melissa Holmes.

According to the school district, new measures to improve school safety in Uvalde include “non-scalable 8-foot perimeter fencing” on elementary, middle and high school campuses. Officials say they have also installed additional security cameras, upgraded locks, improved training for district staff and improved communication.

However, according to the district’s own progress reports, as of Tuesday, no fencing had been erected on six of the eight campuses where it was scheduled, and cameras had only been installed at the high school. Progress was made on the locks on three of the eight campuses, and communication improvements were marked as half complete for each campus.

Uvalde CISD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uvalde school board fires police chief after mass shooting – Reuters

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