Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo has been placed on administrative leave, the superintendent announced Wednesday.
Arredondo received backlash after reports circulated that police waited nearly an hour to breach the classroom barricaded by suspected gunman Salvador Ramos during the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead. Police initially said that the children died within the first few minutes of the shooting, but it was later learned from a 911 call that eight or nine kids were reportedly still alive over a half hour after police arrived.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell said. “Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies. Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective this date.”
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez will step in and perform the duties of the school district’s chief of police, Harrell said.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) June 22, 2022
Officers entered the elementary school building at 11:35 a.m., two minutes after the shooter, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said. Authorities reportedly did not engage with Ramos until around 12:50 p.m., when a specialized Border Patrol Tactical Unit entered the room and fatally shot the suspected gunman. (RELATED: ‘I Didn’t Issue Any Orders’: Uvalde School Police Chief Speaks Out For First Time)
Police, along with Arredondo, waited outside the classroom to receive tactical gear, a sniper and keys to the classroom, according to the Texas Tribune. When he received the keys, he was reportedly unsuccessful in getting any of them to work. The San Antonio Express-News reported Saturday that the police never attempted to unlock the door, possibly because they thought the doors locked automatically. Due to a malfunction, the door may have actually been open, according to the outlet.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo told The Texas Tribune.
McCraw said that police made the “wrong decision” and that there was “no excuse” for their delayed action at a May 27 press conference.
“With a bit of a hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision it was the wrong decision, period,” McCraw said. “There is no excuse for that.” McCraw went on to deflect his personal involvement. “But again, I wasn’t there,” he said. “I’m just telling you from what we know, we believe there should have been an entry as soon as you can.”
Children repeatedly called 911 as authorities waited outside the classroom. The first call came through at 12:03, where the student told the emergency line she was in room 112, according to The New York Times. Another call reportedly came in at 12:16 p.m. with a student saying that eight or nine students were still alive. A student told 911 to “please send the police now” at 12:43 and 12:47.
Democratic Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said Arredondo had no knowledge of the 911 calls made by the students at the time. The emergency line operators reportedly directed their calls to the city police.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the police response in late May.