Friday, March 31, 2023

‘Very angry’: Uvalde locals grappling with school head role

UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Blame an excruciating delay in killing a gunman at an elementary school in Texas — even as parents outside begged police and panicked children on 911 from inside. is placed with the home police chief of the school district. ,

This is left to residents of the small town of Uvalde, who are struggling to reconcile what they know about the famed local lawmaker after the state police director said that the commander at the scene – Pete Arredondo – made the “wrong decision” not to dissolve a class. Robb at Elementary School, believing that the gunman had been locked inside and that the children were in no danger.

After chasing the gunman into the building, officers waited more than an hour for the classroom to be breached, Texas Department of Public Safety Chief Steven McCraw said at a Friday news conference. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shootout.

Arredondo, who grew up in Uvalde and graduated from high school here, was to be sworn in on Tuesday in his new position on the city council after being elected earlier this month. The 50-year-old has spent much of a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement in Uvalde, returning in 2020 to take the job of police chief in the school district.

When Arredondo was a boy, Maria Gonzalez would take him and his children to the same school where the shootings took place. “He was a good boy,” she said.

“Maybe they dropped the ball because they didn’t have enough experience,” he said. Who knows? People are very angry,” Gonzalez said.

Another woman in the neighborhood where Arredondo grew up started crying when asked about her. The woman, who did not wish to be named, said one of her granddaughters was at school during the shooting, but she was not hurt.

Juan Torres, a US Army veteran who was clearly upset by the incoming reports about the reaction, said he had known Arredondo from high school.

“You sign up to respond to those types of situations,” Torres said. “If you’re scared, don’t be a police officer. Go flip burgers.”

Following his election to city council, Arredondo told Uvalde Leader-News earlier this month that he was “ready to run on the ground.”

“I have a lot of ideas, and I definitely have a lot of drive,” he said, adding that he wanted to focus not only on the city being financially responsible, but making sure the road was repaired. and beautification projects.

At a forum of candidates before his election, Arredondo said: “I think nothing is too complicated for me. Everything has a solution. That solution starts with communication. Communication is the key.”

McCraw said Friday that city police officers entered through the same door minutes after the gunman broke into the school. Over the course of more than an hour, law enforcement from several agencies arrived at the scene. In the end, officials said, a US Border Patrol tactical team used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.

McCraw said students and teachers had repeatedly pleaded with 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 protocol – raised questions about whether more lives were lost because officers didn’t act swiftly.

Two law enforcement officers have said that as the gunman opened fire on the students, law enforcement officers from other agencies urged Arredondo to let him in because the children were in danger, officials spoke on condition of anonymity. Because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Investigation.

Arredondo began his career in law enforcement working for the Uvalde Police Department. After spending 16 years there, he moved to Laredo, a border town 130 miles (209 kilometers) to the south, where he worked for the Webb County Sheriff’s Office and then for a local school district, a 2020 article According to. Uvalde leader-news on his return to his hometown to take the job of school district police chief.

Ray Garner, the police chief of the Laredo district 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 that it was a matter of concern. was worried about the students.

“He was an excellent officer here,” Garner told the newspaper. “Down here, we do a lot of training on active-shooter scenarios, and he was involved in them.”

Arredondo, who only spoke 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 gathered at Arredondo’s house and police cruisers occupied checkpoints there. At one point, a man answering the door at Arredondo’s home told a reporter for The Associated Press that Arredondo was “inevitable.”

“The truth will come out,” said the man before closing the door.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, said on Nation World News’s “State of the Union” that he is asking “too many questions” after “so many things have gone wrong.”

He said a family told him that first responders told him that their child, who was shot in the back, was probably bleeding. “So, of course, these mistakes can also cause these kids to die,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said that which law enforcement agency had or should have had operational control is an “important” concern of his, he also “suggested” to McCraw that “it is not fair to place it on the local (school district) police.” ”

“At the end of the day, everyone has failed here,” Gutierrez said.


Associated Press writers Stengel contributed from Dallas, and Kurt Anderson in Miami, Jim Vertuno in Austin, Mike Balsamo in Washington and Elliot Spagat in Uvalde also contributed.


More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas:

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