UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The Uvalde college district fired police chief Pete Arredondo on Wednesday underneath mounting stress within the grieving Texas city to punish officers over letting a gunman at Robb Elementary College stay in a fourth-grade classroom for greater than an hour with an AR-15 type rifle as 19 youngsters and two lecturers have been killed.
In a unanimous vote, the Uvalde Consolidated Unbiased College District’s board of trustees fired Arredondo in an auditorium of fogeys and survivors of the May 24 massacre. Arredondo, who didn’t attend the assembly, turns into the primary officer to lose his job following one of many deadliest classroom shootings in U.S. historical past.
His ouster got here three months to the day after the tragedy, and fewer than two weeks earlier than college students return to high school in Uvalde, the place some youngsters stay too scared or scarred to return inside a classroom.
Cheers from the group adopted the vote, and a few dad and mom walked out of an auditorium in tears. Outdoors, a number of Uvalde residents known as for different officers to be held accountable.
“Coward!” some within the viewers yelled because the assembly acquired underway.
Arredondo, who has been on go away from the district since June 22, has come underneath probably the most intense scrutiny of the almost 400 officers who rushed to high school however waited greater than 70 minutes to confront the 18-year-old gunman in a fourth-grade classroom.
Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to behave sooner. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Division of Public Security, has mentioned Arredondo was answerable for the regulation enforcement response to the assault.
Minutes earlier than the assembly of the Uvalde college board acquired underway, Arredondo’s legal professional launched a scathing 4,500-word letter that amounted to the police chief’s fullest protection so far of his actions. Over 17 defiant pages, Arredondo will not be a fumbling college police chief who a damning state investigation blamed for not taking command and wasted time by searching for keys to a probable unlocked door, however a courageous officer whose level-headed choices saved the lives of different college students.
It alleges that Arredondo warned the district about quite a lot of safety points within the faculties a 12 months earlier than the taking pictures and asserted he wasn’t answerable for the scene. The letter additionally accused Uvalde college officers of placing his security in danger by not letting him carry a weapon to the varsity board assembly if he have been to attend, citing “professional dangers of hurt to the general public and to Chief Arredondo.”
“Chief Arredondo is a pacesetter and a brave officer who with all the different regulation enforcement officers who responded to the scene, must be celebrated for the lives saved, as a substitute of vilified for these they couldn’t attain in time,” George Hyde wrote.
Following the vote, Hyde’s workplace didn’t instantly return a request for remark.
Uvalde college officers have been underneath mounting stress from victims’ households and members of the neighborhood, a lot of whom have known as for Arredondo’s termination. Superintendent Hal Harrell had first moved to fireside Arredondo in July however postponed the choice on the request of the police chief’s legal professional.
Amongst these on the assembly was Ruben Torres, father of Chloe Torres, who survived the taking pictures in room 112 of the varsity. He mentioned that as a former Marine, he took an oath that he faithfully executed willingly, and didn’t perceive why officers didn’t take motion when management failed.
“Proper now, being younger, she is having a tough time dealing with this horrific occasion,” Torres mentioned.
Shirley Zamora, the mom of a pupil at Robb Elementary, mentioned accountability should not finish with Arredondo’s dismissal.
“That is simply going to be the start. It is a lengthy course of,” she mentioned.
Just one different officer — Uvalde Police Division Lt. Mariano Pargas, who was the town’s appearing police chief on the day of bloodbath — is understood to have been positioned on go away for his or her actions through the taking pictures.
The Texas Division of Public Security, which had greater than 90 state troopers on the scene, has also launched an internal investigation into the response by state police. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, mentioned McCraw, the state police chief, additionally deserves scrutiny.
“You fail at one thing so badly that persons are getting damage, then definitely we’ve got to have some higher accountability,” he mentioned. “And accountability means shedding your job, so be it.”
College officers have mentioned the campus at Robb Elementary will now not be used when college students return Sept 6. As a substitute, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will function short-term lecture rooms for elementary college college students, not all of whom are keen to return to high school in-person following the taking pictures.
College officers say a digital academy might be provided for college kids. The district has not mentioned what number of college students will attend nearly, however a brand new state regulation handed final 12 months in Texas following the pandemic limits the variety of eligible college students receiving distant instruction to “10% of all enrolled college students inside a given college system.”
Faculties can search a waiver to exceed the restrict however Uvalde has not carried out so, in keeping with the Texas Schooling Company.
New measures to enhance college security in Uvalde embody “8-foot, non-scalable perimeter fencing” at elementary, center and highschool campuses, in keeping with the varsity district. Officers say they’ve additionally put in extra safety cameras, upgraded locks, enhanced coaching for district employees and enhancing communication.