Uvalde school police chief says that he did not consider himself the incident commander during mass shooting
UVALDE, TX- In the aftermath of the horrific elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the school police chief has been widely criticized for his actions and in his first extensive interview said that he did not consider himself to be the person in charge as the massacre unfolded.
Uvalde police chief says he ditched his radio during school shooting response – experts are stunned https://t.co/Y2CNimteLa
— Matt West (@coltsmatt) June 13, 2022
Pete Arredondo, the police chief of the Uvalde school district stated that he assumed someone else was in charge and that he intentionally left behind both his police and campus radios before entering Robb Elementary School. Arredondo said in a statement:
“The only thing that was important to me at this time was to save as many teachers and children as possible.”
He reportedly spent more than an hour in the hallway of Robb Elementary School as he used his cell phone to call for tactical gear, a sniper, and keys to get inside. When the keys arrived, he tried dozens of them, but one by one they failed to work. He added:
“Each time I tried a key, I was just praying.”
Finally, 77 minutes after the mass shooting began, officers were able to unlock the door and fatally shoot the gunman.
Uvalde is trying to cover up records on police chief who led bungled response to the school shooter https://t.co/N9rOcXUtQO pic.twitter.com/kLWJSiwy7o
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) June 13, 2022
According to the Texas Tribune, aside from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Arredondo is the only other law enforcement official to publicly tell his account of the police response to the deadly shooting.
Since the shooting, Arredondo’s actions have come under intensifying scrutiny from state officials and experts trained in mass shooting responses.
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, stated that the school police chief, whom he described as the “incident commander,” made the wrong decision to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.
However, Arredondo said that he believed that carrying radios would slow him down as he entered the school and that he also knew the radios did not work in some of the buildings.
He also said that he never considered himself the scene’s “incident commander” and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building. He added:
“I didn’t issue any orders. I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
He insisted that the steps he took were the ones he thought would best protect lives at his hometown school, one he had attended himself as a young boy. He said:
“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff.”
Five takeaways from Uvalde schools police Chief Pete Arredondo’s interview with The Texas Tribune https://t.co/ZKFtf2bJ6B
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) June 13, 2022
Arredondo noted that some 500 students were safely evacuated during the crisis. As head of the six-member police force responsible for keeping Uvalde schools safe, Arredondo has been singled out for much of the blame, particularly by state officials.
They criticized him for failing to taking control of the police response and said he made the wrong decision that delayed officers from entering the classroom.
Arredondo has reportedly faced death threats and news crews have camped outside of his home, forcing him to go into hiding. He has been called cowardly and incompetent among other things. He said neither accusation is true or fair. He added:
“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children. We responding to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
Ten days after the shooting, the New York Times reported that a group of U.S. Border Patrol agents ignored a directive spoken into their earpieces not to enter the room. The Times has since reported that Arredondo did not object when the team entered the room.
George E. Hyde, Arredondo’s lawyer, said that if a directive delaying entry was issued, it did not come from Arredondo, but the Times reported that someone was issuing orders at the scene. Hyde said he did not know who that person was and the Border Patrol has declined to comment.
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