In the face of intense public pressure, Uvalde’s top school official has recommended firing the school district police chief, who was central to the botched law enforcement response to the elementary school shooting nearly two months ago, which killed two teachers and 19 students.
The school board of a South Texas city announced Wednesday that it will consider firing Chief Pete Arredondo at a special meeting on Saturday. State officials have accused Arredondo of making several critical errors during the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Previously, school officials resisted calls to fire Arredondo. The announcement comes two days after members of the public slammed the school board members for more than three hours, accusing them of failing to implement basic security at Robb, not being transparent about what happened, and failing to hold Arredondo accountable for his actions.
When confronted with parents’ vociferous demands to fire Arredondo and threats that his job would be next, Superintendent Hal Harrell stated on Monday that Arredondo was a contract employee who could not be fired at will. The board will meet with its lawyer on Saturday to discuss the possibility of firing.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, has faced harsh criticism in the aftermath of the massacre, most notably for failing to order officers to enter the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman carried out the attack. If fired, Arredondo would be the first officer fired in the aftermath of the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
Despite the fact that nearly 400 officers from various agencies were involved in the police response that took more than an hour to confront and kill the shooter, Arredondo is one of only two officers known to have faced disciplinary action.
The potential firing of the chief comes after the release of a damning 80-page report by a Texas House committee that blamed all levels of law enforcement for a slow and ineffective response. According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers gathered at the school, more than half of whom were from state and federal agencies, but they “failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety.”
Arredondo told lawmakers that he did not consider himself the on-scene commander in charge and that his priority was to protect children in other classrooms, according to the committee. According to the committee report, that decision was a “terrible, tragic mistake.”
Uvalde officials released body camera footage of Arredondo in the hallway trying multiple sets of keys on other classroom doors, but not the one where the massacre occurred. The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there is no indication officers tried to open the door while the gunman was inside.
“Our thinking was, ‘If he comes out, you eliminate the threat,’ correct?” According to the report, Arredondo informed the committee. “And just thinking about other children being in other classrooms made me think, ‘We can’t let him come back out.'” If he returns, we either take him out or eliminate the threat.”
Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalde and spent the majority of his nearly 30-year law enforcement career there. He became the school district’s chief of police in 2020 and was sworn in as a member of the City Council on May 31 in a closed-door ceremony. On July 2, he resigned from his council seat.