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Uvalde school police chief fired 3 months after botched response to school shooting

Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school on May 26 in Uvalde, Texas.
Dario Lopez-Mills
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school on May 26 in Uvalde, Texas.

Updated August 24, 2022 at 9:11 PM ET

Pete Arredondo, the police chief in charge of the law enforcement response to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has been fired.

After a nearly 90-minute termination hearing held behind closed doors Wednesday evening, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District's board voted unanimously to terminate Arredondo's contract effective immediately. They also found there was good cause for him not to receive pay for the time he was on unpaid administrative leave since July 19.

Arredondo's termination hearing was originally scheduled to take place a month ago, but that hearing wascanceled at the request of Arredondo's attorney, who told the district the police chief was entitled to due process.

Arredondo was not present for Wednesday's meeting, saying he was concerned over his safety, but his attorney released a 17-page statement in response to the termination hearing.

"Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the Board immediately reinstate him, with all backpay and benefits and close the complaint as unfounded," read the statement.

The families of the 21 victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary have been demanding Arredondo be fired since news first broke in late May that the police chief was in charge of the law enforcement response during the shooting.

Hundreds of officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman while children in the 4th grade classroom where he was holed up called 911.

A Texas House reportfound there were 376 law enforcement officers on the scene, including 150 U.S. Border Patrol Agents, 91 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff's deputies, and five Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District officers.

State lawmakers investigating the shooting found law enforcement failures at all levels. But the school district's active shooter plan — co-written by Arredondo — called for Arredondo to take command of all of the officers who responded that day. Yet, Arredondo maintains he did not know he was the incident commander.

Arredondo, a Uvalde native, was hired as the school district's police chief in 2020. Prior to that, he worked at the Webb County Sheriff's office in South Texas. The San Antonio Express News reported that Arredondo was demoted from a high-ranking position in 2014 because he had difficulty getting along with others in the department.

Despite growing calls for action following the shooting, Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell waited almost two months to recommend Arredondo's termination.

At a heated school board forum in July, Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, even gave the board a deadline. Uziyah is one of the 19 children killed in the shooting.

"I'll tell you this. If he's not fired by noon tomorrow, then I want your resignation and every single one of you board members because y'all do not give a damn about our children or us," Cross said at the time. "Stand with us or against us, because we ain't going nowhere."

Cross said he doesn't buy Arredondo not showing up to his termination hearings out of fear for his safety, saying during Wednesday's public comments that Arredondo was not present "to face the consequences to his actions."

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio

Camille Phillips covers education for Texas Public Radio.
Dan Katz