The police chief of the school district of Uvalde, Texas, has resigned from his post on the city council just weeks after he was sworn in following allegations that he made a mistake in his response to the Robb Elementary School mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers died.
Pete Arredondo said in a letter dated Friday that he has decided to resign for the good of the city and “to keep further distractions to a minimum”. He was elected to the council on May 7 and was sworn in on May 31, just a week after the massacre, in a closed-door ceremony.
“The mayor, city council and city staff must continue to reunite our community,” Arredondo said in his resignation, first reported by the Uvalde Leader-News.
Arredondo, who has been on administrative leave from his school district since June 22, has rejected repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press. His attorney, George Hyde, did not immediately respond to email requests for comment on Saturday.
On June 21, the city council voted unanimously to deny Arredondo leave to appear at public meetings. Relatives of the shooting had begged city leaders to fire him.
Uvalde City Council released Arredondo’s letter of resignation on Saturday, after city officials were notified by email of his intention to resign but declined to comment.
Representatives of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin did not respond to AP’s requests for comment.
Police response called an ‘abject failure’
Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a Senate hearing last month that Arredondo – the commander on the ground – made “terrible decisions” as the massacre unfolded on May 24, and that the response from the police an “abject failure.”
Three minutes after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the school, enough armed police were on the scene to stop the gunman, McCraw testified. Still, police officers armed with guns waited in the hallway of a school for over an hour as the gunman carried out the massacre. The classroom door could not be locked from the inside, but there is no evidence that officers attempted to open the door while the gunman was inside, McCraw said.
McCraw has said parents begged the police outside the school to come in and students in the classroom repeatedly begged 911 operators for help as more than a dozen officers waited in a hallway. Agents from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were at risk.
“The only thing that kept a corridor of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the site commander who decided to put officers’ lives over children’s lives,” McCraw said.
Arredondo has tried to defend his actions by telling the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed someone else was in control of law enforcement’s response. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios with him, but he used his cellphone to summon tactical gear, a sniper, and the keys to the classroom.
It’s still not clear why it took police so long to enter the classroom, how they communicated with each other during the attack, and what their body cameras show.
Officials have declined to release more details, citing the investigation.
Arredondo, 50, grew up in Uvalde and has spent much of his nearly 30-year law enforcement career in the city.