Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, the school’s superintendent said. The action is effective immediately.
Dr. Hal Harrell said in a statement that, although the district wanted to wait for the investigation into law enforcement’s responses to the deadly mass shooting to be completed before making any decisions, he went ahead and placed Arredondo on leave “because of the lack of clarity that remains” and the “unknown timing” of when the investigation will conclude.
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez will fill the role while Arredondo is on leave, Harrell said.
Arredondo has been met with intense criticism since the May 24 shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers. He was in charge of the law enforcement response that day, and investigations have revealed several failures, including that police had an opportunity to shoot the gunman within three minutes of his arrival at the school and instead left him in the school for over an hour. Police also never checked to see if the door to the classroom where the gunman was holed up was locked.
Not only has Arredondo faced questioning, but the subsequent investigation into the shooting response has also raised red flags, with many feeling confused about what actually happened on that day.
Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Texas Department of Public Safety, accusing state troopers of not sharing information with the public, but instead pointing fingers at Uvalde school police.
“They want to give us snippets of body cam footage from the local police, but they want to hold on to their own body cam footage,” Gutierrez said of the Texas State Troopers. “We found out yesterday there were 91 officers on site from the Department of Public Safety.”
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin is placing blame at the feet of state authorities, who he says have been responsible for keeping citizens in the dark.
McLaughlin told CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca that he was last briefed by DPS on the morning of May 25, one day after the shooting.
“I’ve contacted them every day. I don’t get a damn thing out of them,” McLaughlin said.
The search for answers has left community and family members feeling lost amid the struggle to find answers. Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed, said the mixed messages from officials is frustrating and hurts.
The news comes as state lawmakers continue to focus on mental health and gun safety following the shooting’s aftermath.
McGraw said Tuesday that the shooter was “on a pathway to violence,” as he dropped out of high school at 17 and had asked a family member to purchase a weapon for him. Also Tuesday, McLaughlin vowed that no Uvalde student or teacher will ever step foot in Robb Elementary again, saying it’s his understanding that the building will be demolished.