The head of Uvalde’s school district police force has been sworn in as a member of the city council by the mayor – despite accusations that he has stopped cooperating with a state investigation into last week’s school shooting.
Pete Arredondo, 50, has been under intense scrutiny for his handling of the May 24 police response to the Robb Elementary massacre.
On Monday, the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, said that the ceremony marking the swearing in of new city council members had been postponed out of respect to the 21 victims.
Yet on Tuesday, he announced that the swearing in had gone ahead, in private – news that angered many, given the cloud over Arredondo’s head.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief Pete Arredondo (left) was in charge of the police response, and has been criticized for his actions. On Tuesday the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin (right) swore Arredondo in as a member of the city council
‘Uvalde City Council members were sworn in today as per the City Charter,’ McLaughlin announced.
‘Out of respect for the families who buried their children today, and who are planning to bury their children in the next few days, no ceremony was held.’
McLaughlin, conscious of the anger directed at Arredondo, said on Monday the ceremony would not be held.
‘Our focus on Tuesday is on our families who lost loved ones,’ he said.
‘We begin burying our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week’s murders at Robb Elementary School. The special City Council meeting will not take place as scheduled.’
He also defended Arredondo’s place on the council, despite inquiries into his handling of the massacre being launched by both the Texas department of public safety and, in an unusual move, the Department of Justice.
‘There is nothing in the City Charter, Election Code, or Texas Constitution that prohibits him from taking the oath of office,’ McLaughlin said.
‘To our knowledge, we are currently not aware of any investigation of Mr Arredondo.’
McLaughlin is seen on the day after the shooting in his city, visiting the school where it happened
A man and a boy visit a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Sunday to pay their respects for the victims killed in a school shooting
Arredondo believed that the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, was barricaded alone inside the building, and waited over an hour before breaching the classrooms – by which time 19 children and two teachers had been killed.
On Tuesday, Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas DPS, said Arredondo had stopped assisting their inquiries.
‘Uvalde and Uvalde CISD departments have been cooperating with investigators,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘The chief of the CISD did an initial interview but has not responded to a request for a followup interview that was made two days ago.’
Fifteen minutes later, Considine contradicted himself, and told Dallas News: ‘Uvalde PD and Uvalde ISD are cooperating.
‘Plenty of their personnel have done interviews and given statements to investigators, so it’s absolutely wrong to characterize both those departments as not being cooperative.’
He did not explain why he previously said Arredondo was ignoring their request.
The investigators are trying to determine the facts surrounding last week’s murder in Uvalde, amid widespread anger at a confusing and contradictory explanation of what happened. In particular, people have questioned why it took so long to end Ramos’s rampage.
The Texas force opened an investigation as a matter of routine. In addition, on Sunday the federal Department of Justice announced they too were launching an inquiry.
Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that both the Uvalde forces had stopped assisting the state investigation.
US Customs and Border Protection agents (left) are seen alongside local police (center) and sheriff’s deputies (right) working to rescue kids from Robb Elementary on Tuesday
On Tuesday it emerged that Arredondo, who led the botched response to last week’s deadly school shooting, had recently completed active shooting training courses.
Arredondo was the on-scene incident commander at the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School, and apparently ordered officers to wait roughly an hour before engaging the barricaded shooter.
Federal forces, with the border patrol, arrived on the scene and respected his orders for the first half an hour, but then decided unilaterally to storm the building and shoot the gunman dead.
It now emerged that in December 2021 Arredondo completed an eight-hour school-based law enforcement training on active shooter situations at Southwest Texas Junior College, according to records reported by CBS News.
Arredondo completed the same course on August 25, 2020 and 16 hours of a ‘Terrorism Response Tactics – Active Shooter’ course on June 10, 2019, the records show.
Despite his training, Arredondo has been accused of failing to follow standard operating procedure for school shootings, which calls for the first police on the scene to engage the shooter.
Instead, it emerged last week that Arredondo ordered 19 officers to wait in a hallway outside the classroom where the shooter was barricaded for about an hour, believing that any potential victims inside were already dead.
Police are seen staging outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24
Police run near Robb Elementary School following the shooting on May 24
The 50-year-old Arredondo has spent much of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in Uvalde, returning in 2020 to take the head police job at the school district.
Now, blame for an excruciating delay in killing the gunman is increasingly centering on Arredondo.
It’s left residents in the small city of Uvalde struggling to reconcile what they know of the well-liked local lawman after the director of state police said that the commander at the scene – Arredondo – made the ‘wrong decision’ not to breach the classroom sooner, believing the gunman was barricaded inside and children weren’t at risk.
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at the Friday news conference that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom.
Arredondo, who grew up in Uvalde and graduated from high school there, was set to be sworn in Tuesday to his new spot on the City Council after being elected earlier this month, but Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a statement Monday that the meeting wouldn’t happen.
It was not immediately clear whether the swearing-in would happen privately or at a later date.
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at the Friday news conference that officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom
The 50-year-old Arredondo has spent much of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in Uvalde, returning in 2020 to take the head police job at the school district
A police vehicle is seen parked near of a truck belonging to the suspect of a shooting at Robb Elementary School after a shooting last week
‘Pete Arredondo was duly elected to the City Council,’ McLaughlin said in the statement.
‘There is nothing in the City Charter, Election Code, or Texas Constitution that prohibits him from taking the oath of office.’
When Arredondo was a boy, Maria Gonzalez used to drive him and her children to the same school where the shooting happened.
‘He was a good boy,’ she said.
‘He dropped the ball maybe because he did not have enough experience. Who knows? People are very angry.’
Another woman in the neighborhood where Arredondo grew up began sobbing when asked about him. The woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said one of her granddaughters was at the school during the shooting but wasn’t hurt.
Juan Torres, a U.S. Army veteran who was visibly upset with reports coming out about the response, said he knew Arredondo from high school.
‘You sign up to respond to those kinds of situations,’ Torres said.
‘If you are scared, then don’t be a police officer. Go flip burgers.’
After his election to the City Council, Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News earlier this month that he was ‘ready to hit the ground running.’
‘I have plenty of ideas, and I definitely have plenty of drive,’ he said, adding he wanted to focus not only on the city being fiscally responsible but also making sure street repairs and beautification projects happen.
A woman cries as she leaves the Uvalde Civic Center on May 24 in Uvalde
Connie Rubio (below right), grandmother of Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10, who died in the mass shooting, mourns with her family during a candlelight vigil to honor and remember the victims
At a candidates’ forum before his election, Arredondo said: ‘I guess to me nothing is complicated. Everything has a solution. That solution starts with communication. Communication is key.’
McCraw said on Friday that minutes after the gunman entered the school, city police officers entered through the same door.
Over the course of more than an hour, law enforcement from multiple agencies arrived on the scene.
Finally, officials said, a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.
McCraw said that students and teachers had repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while Arredondo told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway.
That directive – which goes against established active-shooter protocols – prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers didn’t act faster.
Two law enforcement officials have said that as the gunman fired at students, law enforcement officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let them move in because children were in danger.
McLaughlin, the Uvalde mayor, pushed back on officials’ claims – including remarks made over the weekend by Texas’ lieutenant governor – that they were not told the truth about the massacre.
‘Local law enforcement has not made any public comments about the specifics of the investigation or (misled) anyone,’ he said in a Monday statement.
Law enforcement personnel stand outside a funeral home during a visitation for Amerie Garza, a 10-year-old victim who was killed in last week’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas
Arredondo started out his career in law enforcement working for the Uvalde Police Department.
After spending 16 years there, he went to Laredo, a border city located 130 miles miles to the south, where he worked at the Webb County Sheriff’s Office and then for a local school district, according to a 2020 article in the Uvalde Leader-News on his return to his hometown to take the school district police chief job.
Ray Garner, the police chief of the district in Laredo where Arredondo worked, told the San Antonio Express-News in a story published after the Uvalde shooting that when Arredondo worked in the Laredo district he was ‘easy to talk to’ and was concerned about the students.
‘He was an excellent officer down here,’ Garner told the newspaper.
‘Down here, we do a lot of training on active-shooter scenarios, and he was involved in those.’
Arredondo, who spoke only briefly at two short news conferences on the day of the shooting, appeared behind state officials speaking at news conferences over the next two days, but was not present at McCraw’s Friday news conference.
After that news conference, members of the media converged at Arredondo’s home and police cruisers took up posts there.
At one point, a man answering the door at Arredondo’s house told a reporter for The Associated Press that Arredondo was ‘indisposed.’
‘The truth will come out,’ said the man before closing the door.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, said on CNN´s ‘State of the Union’ that he’s asking a lot of questions after ‘so many things went wrong.’
He said one family told him that a first responder told them that their child, who was shot in the back, likely bled out.
‘So, absolutely, these mistakes may have led to the passing away of these children as well,’ Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said while the issue of which law enforcement agency had or should have had operational control is a ‘significant’ concern of his, he’s also ‘suggested’ to McCraw ‘that it’s not fair to put it on the local (school district) cop.’
‘At the end of the day, everybody failed here,’ Gutierrez said.