The Uvalde, Texas, school district police chief is resigning from his community’s city council amid criticism of the law enforcement response to the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb elementary in May.
Pedro “Pete” Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News that he was stepping down from the city council post to which he was sworn in just seven days after the massacre, the outlet reported on Saturday.
A statement from Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin, said the city government had received Arredondo’s resignation letter only after he announced his intentions through the local newspaper.
McLaughlin’s statement called stepping down “the right thing to do” for Arredondo.
According to the Leader-News, Arredondo continued maintaining that he was not the commander of officers who waited more than an hour before confronting and killing the shooter at Robb on 24 May. His statement is contrary to the findings from the state’s department of public safety chief, Steve McCraw, who concluded it was Arredondo’s call to delay officers that day despite the fact that they had adequate numbers and weaponry to put a stop to the carnage much sooner than they did.
A copy of Arredondo’s resignation letter, released by McLaughlin’s office, offered prayers to the school massacre victims’ families.
“In speaking with other communities that have had similar tragedies, the guidance has been the same: continue to support the families, continue to support our community and definitely to keep our faith,” Arredondo said.
He also said he was leaving the council behind “to minimize further distractions” for the city.
Arredondo had missed the first two city council meetings of his tenure and was facing expulsion from the panel if he had a third unexcused absence. The city council late last month rejected a request to grant him a leave of absence that would have protected him from being expelled from the body if he missed more than the two meetings.
Residents had gone to the meeting where the council considered the leave of absence and urged his colleagues to vote it down. Some said he failed the slain students and teachers on the day of the attack, with the relative of one victim saying: “We’re begging – get this man out of our lives”.
Before stepping down from the council, he was placed on paid administrative leave from his position as the school district’s police chief while federal and state investigations into the officers’ response to the attack at Robb continued.
Residents had pondered subjecting Arredondo to a recall election if he insisted on keeping his seat on the city council. It would have required fewer than 50 signatures to compel the election, yet local laws prevented residents from taking such a step until February next year.
After Arredondo’s resignation takes effect, voters in his council district will have the opportunity to elect a replacement to serve the rest of his four-year term.
Arredondo was his county’s highest paid law enforcement official, earning $90,750 each year after becoming the Uvalde school district’s police chief in 2020. The local sheriff’s salary, by contrast, is about $77,915, the Leader-News reported.
His ability to serve in his public positions seemingly became tenuous after a committee of state lawmakers examining the shooting released a timeline showing 11 officers had been positioned outside two classrooms under attack within seven minutes of the first 911 call.
At least two of the officers had rifles, providing a team that was adequate to mount an assault against the intruder, who was fleeing the scene of another shooting, McCraw has said.
Police responding to so-called active shooters have been trained for at least two decades to confront the assailants as soon as practical rather than wait for reinforcements, a practice that was developed amid countless mass killings across the US over the past two decades.
But instead of ordering officers to go in, Arredondo – who was on site at the school – reportedly had them wait while he called the city police force for reinforcements.
“We don’t have enough firepower right now,” Arredondo said, in part, according to a committee transcript of that call.
Arredondo also purportedly worried that the door to the classroom where the intruder was cornered had potentially been locked, and he couldn’t immediately track down its key. But the door was in fact not locked – and even if it was, officers had a “hooligan” tool that could pry locked doors open, according to the committee’s evidence.
Officers stormed the classroom 77 minutes into the attack and killed the gunman. But by then he had already murdered 21 and wounded 17 others.
McCraw ultimately assessed Arredondo’s performance that day as an “abject failure and antithetical to everything we’ve learned” about mass shootings.