The school police chief who was chastised for allowing officers to remain on campus during a gunman’s deadly siege last week in Uvalde, Texas, is free to take his elected seat on the City Council, the mayor said Monday.
However, the ceremony for Peter Arredondo, which was scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed so that the town can continue to focus on the victims, according to the mayor.
Arredondo, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s chief of police, was said to be the incident commander who ordered officers to remain outside during last week’s more-than-hour-long siege at Robb Elementary School.
Despite the presence of city, state, and federal law enforcement officers who could have presumably pulled rank and assumed command, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said Arredondo’s decision to wait for more resources for what he believed was a barricaded suspect was his alone.
More than an hour after the mass shooting began, a SWAT-style team of US Customs and Border Protection agents apparently defied the chief’s order, breached a classroom area, and fatally shot the suspect.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting, which occurred 70 miles east of the port of entry at Del Rio and was carried out by a semi-automatic, high-power rifle believed to be a clone of the AR-15 originally designed for combat use.
Arredondo was elected to one of five council seats on May 7 with 126 votes, more than two-thirds of the total in the city of over 15,000 people. He was supposed to be sworn in on Tuesday, but Mayor Don McLaughlin said the ceremony would be postponed so the city could focus on survivors.
Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News in a May 12 story that he was looking forward to the new role.
“I’m very excited, and I’m ready to get started,” the chief is quoted as saying. “I have a lot of ideas and definitely a lot of drive.”
“There is nothing in the City Charter, Election Code, or Texas Constitution that prevents him from taking the oath of office,” McLaughlin said in a statement Monday. We are not aware of any investigation into Mr. Arredondo at this time.”
Arredondo has not responded to requests for comment since providing the news media with initial information about the tragedy on May 24. He is facing questions about the wait, which may have affected survival for those hit by gunfire.
The mayor expressed his support for Arredondo and his new role in an interview broadcast to television stations across the country on Monday.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” McLaughlin said. “Not that I want to. I mean, he was duly elected, and that’s something Pete and, I’m sure, the people in his district will come to terms with.”
McLaughlin stated in the statement that it was his request that prompted the Justice Department to announce on Sunday that it will conduct an investigation into law enforcement’s response to the attack.
According to Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley, the critical incident review aims to “provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, as well as identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events.”
In a statement issued on Monday, the mayor thanked the Justice Department for agreeing to conduct the investigation.
He refuted Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s claim on Fox News on Saturday that state leaders were “not told the truth” about how the police response unfolded.
Gov. Greg Abbott initially stated that the killer was confronted by a school resource officer as he entered the campus, but McCraw, the head of the state Department of Public Safety, or DPS, later stated that this was not the case: The officer in question appears to have driven right past the attacker, who was crouching next to a car.
McLaughlin stated that no false information was provided by local police. “All statements and comments made to date about the ongoing investigation are being handled by DPS/Texas Rangers,” he stated.
The DPS is conducting an investigation into the origins and motivation of the attack.
McLaughlin stated on television that it is critical to identify and learn from the tragedy.