Uvalde police chief Pete Arredondo was put on administrative leave Wednesday – just one day after the the Austin American Statesman and KVUE released a bombshell report which revealed that officers were well equipped to neutralize Robb Elementary mass shooter Salvador Ramos – yet were ordered not to engage for most of the 77 minutes they were on scene.
Ramos, 18, killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers while police – who we now know had semiautomatic rifles and ballistic shields – waited outside until a member of the Border Patrol's tactical unit (BORTAC) ignored orders and entered the classroom, killing Ramos.
Arredondo's suspension is effective immediately according to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Hal Harrell, and is due to "the lack of clarity that remains," as well as the "unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations." Harrell had initially said he would wait to make any personnel decisions until after the investigation was complete.
More via the Texas Tribune:
In the weeks since the tragedy in Uvalde, questions have swirled around the actions of police and whether some lives could have been saved if officers confronted the barricaded gunman sooner. Authorities have shared conflicting information about who was in charge, who confronted the shooter and when. A debate over whether the locked classroom doors could be breached gave way to the discovery that they may never have been locked at all.
Revelations have trickled out in the press: The New York Times has described officers’ doubts about the decision to wait; breakdowns in communications and tactics; and the fact that officers held off from the confrontation even though they knew people were injured, and possibly dying, inside. The San Antonio Express-News reported that there is no evidence that officers tried the doors on rooms 111 and 112 — contradicting a key assertion by the Uvalde schools police chief, Pete Arredondo, who told The Texas Tribune that officers tried the doors, found them locked and had to wait for a master key to unlock them. On Monday evening, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV revealed that the officers, in effect, had more than enough firepower, equipment and motivation to breach the classrooms.
According to Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Arredondo made "the wrong decision" by not breaching the classrooms during the incident. Arredondo's excuse? He thought the shooter was barricaded inside and that it was not an active-shooter situation. Arredondo's lawyer, George Hyde, said his client didn't think he was the incident commander on the scene, since he was acting as a first responder to the shooting.
Meanwhile, Arredondo was sworn in as a city council member at the end of last month, and was accused of ignoring state investigators' requests for comment during their initial probe into the shooting. The police chief hit back, saying that he was open to cooperation as long as he can see his previous transcripts first, according to Axios.
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez will assume the duties of the police chief.