Embattled Uvalde School Police Chief Explains His Actions

Pete Arredondo gives extensive interview for first time since school shooting
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2022 1:04 AM CDT
Updated Jun 10, 2022 6:50 AM CDT
Embattled Uvalde School Police Chief Explains His Actions
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside of the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday, May 26, 2022.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

(Newser) – In his first extensive public comments since the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, school district police chief Pete Arredondo tells the Texas Tribune he did not consider himself the incident commander, though that's the way the state Department of Public Safety has described him, and that he did not instruct police to avoid breaching the classroom, as has also been reported. "I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo says. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door." He said the classroom door, which had a steel jamb, could not be kicked in, and he waited on dozens of keys to open it, none of which worked. It was 77 minutes after the shooting began that police finally unlocked the door.

Arredondo firmly pushed back on the criticism that has been leveled at him and other officers on the scene: "Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” he says. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat." But law enforcement experts the Tribune spoke to also questioned why Arredondo had no radio; he left both his police and campus radios outside when he entered the school. He tells the paper he wanted both hands free for accurately firing at the shooter, and was also afraid the radios would slow him down.

Even if he and other officers in the hallway outside the classroom had had radios, Arredondo's lawyer says they would have turned them off because they were trying to remain quiet so as not to give their position away to the gunman. No one passed along crucial information to Arredondo, including 911 calls that were coming from inside the classroom, and he continued to believe the incident had become a barricaded hostage situation. He says he considered himself a responder on the front lines and assumed someone else had command of the larger situation, and he recounts sending officers to break windows in adjacent classrooms to evacuate children. Read the whole piece at the Tribune. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports officers at the scene waited more than an hour for shields to arrive, even though they were informed children inside the classroom needed medical attention.

"He could have been saved,” the grandfather of 10-year-old victim Xavier Lopez, who died after he was finally rushed to a hospital, says. “The police did not go in for more than an hour. He bled out.” Two other children also died after arriving at hospitals, and a teacher, Eva Mireles, died in an ambulance. She had called her husband, one of Arredondo's officers, after having been shot, and he told responders on the scene that she was hurt but still alive in the classroom. But officials have not yet determined whether an earlier police response could have saved anyone. Per the documents cited by the Times, it was Arredondo who decided to wait on the shields because he believed officers might be killed if they rushed the classroom without them. The paper says he appeared to "agonize" over how long it was taking for them to arrive. More here. (Read more Uvalde mass shooting stories.)

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