Uvalde schools police chief faces termination vote on Saturday

July 20 – The school board in Uvalde, Texas, plans to vote this weekend on a superintendent’s recommendation to fire the school district police chief widely criticized for handling the shooting rampage that killed 19 children and two teachers in May.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to consider the employment fate of Pete Arredondo in closed session during a special meeting on Saturday, according to a public schedule posted on the district’s website on Wednesday.

The schedule is that the seven-member panel plans to confer with the school district’s attorney before voting on whether to terminate Arredondo from his post “for a good cause,” as recommended by Superintendent Hal Harrell.

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Neither Harrell nor Arredondo nor their representatives immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment.

Parents of children killed in the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School demanded Arredondo be dismissed during a school board meeting on Monday in Uvalde, the small town in the Texas Hill Country about 80 miles west of San Antonio.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Arredondo acted as “incident commander” in law enforcement’s response to the mass shooting and resigned his seat on the Uvalde City Council this month. read more

He has come under scathing criticism since DPS officials disclosed days after the shooting that 19 officers waited for an hour in a hallway outside adjoining classrooms where the gunman was holed up with his victims before a U.S. Border Patrol-led tactical team finally made entry and killed the suspect. read more

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DPS officials have said Arredondo chose to hold off on sending officers in to neutralize the suspect sooner, believing the immediate threat to students had diminished after an initial burst of gunfire in the classrooms.

According to DPS, Arredondo hesitated as two fourth-grade girls cowering inside the classrooms frantically whispered cellphone calls to emergency-911 dispatchers pleading for police to send help.

The New York Times, citing video footage and other materials gathered by investigators has reported that on-scene supervisors knew victims were trapped alive and in desperate need of medical attention. At the same time, Arredondo appeared to agonize over how long it took to obtain protective gear and find a key to the classroom doors. read more

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Arredondo has said he never considered himself the incident commander and did not order police to hold back on storming the suspect’s position.

A report by the Texas state legislature found that “systemic failures” and poor leadership contributed to the loss of life. It also said hundreds of officers from agencies better trained and better equipped than the six-member school district police force also failed.

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