Thursday, March 30, 2023

Uvalde: Residents are angry with school police chief

UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Blame for an excruciating delay in killing the gunman who carried out a massacre at a Texas elementary school — even as parents outside begged police to come in and terrified children called 911—has been put on the city-born school district police chief.

It has left residents of the small town of Uvalde scrambling to reconcile what they know of prized local cop Pete Arredondo after the state police director said the crime scene commander — Arredondo — made the “wrong call.” ” by failing to enter a classroom at Robb Elementary School earlier, believing the armed boy was barricaded inside and the children were in no danger.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference Friday that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited more than an hour to get into the classroom. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting.

Arredondo was set to be sworn in Tuesday to his new City Council seat after being elected earlier this month. The 50-year-old officer grew up in Uvalde and graduated from high school there, and has spent much of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in the city, returning in 2020 to assume the role of police chief of the school district. .

When Arredondo was a child, Maria Gonzalez used to drive him and his children to the same school where the shooting occurred. “He was a good boy,” she recalled.

“He made a mistake maybe because he didn’t have enough experience. Who knows? People are very angry,” Gonzalez said.

Another woman from the neighborhood Arredondo grew up in began sobbing when asked about him. The woman, who did not want to give his name, said one of her granddaughters was at school during the shooting but she was uninjured.

Juan Torres, a US Army veteran who was visibly upset with reports of the police response, said he knew Arredondo from high school.

“You enlist to respond to those kinds of situations,” Torres said. “If you’re scared, then don’t be a cop. Go grill burgers.”

After being elected to the City Council, Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News this month that he was “ready to move forward in a hurry.”

“I have a lot of ideas, and I definitely have a lot of momentum,” he said, indicating that he wanted to focus not only on the city having fiscal discipline but also making sure repair and beautification projects take place.

At a candidate forum before being elected, Arredondo said: “I guess nothing is complicated for me. Everything has a solution. That solution starts with communication. Communication is key.”

McCraw said students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help, while Arredondo told more than a dozen police officers to wait in a hallway outside the classroom. That order — which goes against established protocols for when a gunman is shooting — raised questions about whether more lives were not lost because officers did not act more quickly.


Stengle contributed from Dallas. Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Miami, Jim Vertuno in Austin, Mike Balsamo in Washington and Elliott Spagat in Uvalde also contributed.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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