The police chief who oversaw the law enforcement response to last month’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was placed on leave Wednesday, just one day after the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety called the police’s handling of the massacre—which left 19 children and two teachers dead—an “abject failure.”
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell released a statement saying district police chief Pete Arredondo was being placed on administrative leave as of Wednesday.
The district did not offer any additional details about Arredondo’s leave, including whether it is paid or unpaid, with Harrell saying: “There will be no further information released regarding this personnel matter.”
Harrell said he originally intended to wait until investigations into the shooting response concluded before making any personnel decisions, but he decided to act immediately due to a “lack of clarity” and uncertainty around how long the investigations will take.
Lt. Mike Hernandez will lead the school police department—which is separate from the city police—while Arredondo is on leave, according to Harrell.
Steven McCraw—director of the Texas Department of Public Safety—offered a scathing review of Arredondo during a Texas state Senate hearing on Tuesday, saying the local police force had the ability to take out the shooter three minutes after he entered Robb Elementary School. Instead, the shooter remained holed up for more than an hour inside two adjoining classrooms where he carried out the massacre, despite repeated 911 calls from students inside the classrooms. Wounded teacher Eva Mireles also placed a call to her husband, a police officer, but McCraw said the officer was detained and had his gun taken away after he tried to move against the shooter. Mireles later died. Police have also been blasted for giving conflicting stories about their response to the shooting and their reasoning for not engaging the shooter sooner. Arredondo defended himself by claiming he was unaware he was in charge of the response on scene and saying police struggled to enter the classrooms because they had trouble finding a key to open the door. McCraw testified Tuesday the door was unlocked, and police had a tool to force the door open eight minutes after they arrived on scene.
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander,” McCraw said.
Arredondo also serves as a member of the Uvalde City Council, but he recently put in a request to take a leave of absence. That request was unanimously denied at Tuesday night’s council meeting, as members seek clarity from Arredondo about the law enforcement response.