UVALADE, Texas – The Uvalde school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, has been placed on administrative leave Wednesday as public hearings and the investigation into the May 24 school massacre continues.
A day after the head of the Texas state police called the law enforcement response to the May 24 slaughter an “abject failure,” Texas senators on Wednesday turned their attention to mental health funding for schools and a shortage of counselors and mental health providers.
The bungled response to the attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead before police killed the shooter at Robb Elementary has infuriated the nation, and a recent wave of deadly mass shootings has renewed a push for more gun laws. By week’s end, the U.S. Senate could pass new legislation that would toughen background checks for the youngest firearms buyers and require more sellers to conduct background checks.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday that police had enough officers and firepower at the school to stop Ramos three minutes after he entered the building but they instead waited more than an hour before storming the classroom and killing him.
McCraw outlined a series of missed opportunities, communication breakdowns and errors based on an investigation that has included roughly 700 interviews. He also directed much of the blame at Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief who McCraw said was the commander in charge.
Arredondo, who testified Tuesday at a closed-door hearing of a Texas House committee, has said he didn’t consider himself in charge and assumed someone else had taken control. He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Uvalde’s mayor pushed back on McCraw’s casting blame on Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Safety has repeatedly put out false information about the shooting and glossed over the role of its own officers.
Public pressure has grown for state and local officials to release more information.
On Wednesday, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Texas Department of Public Safety to turn over records related to its investigation into the shooting. The victims’ families “deserve to know the complete, unalterable truth about what happened that day,” a lawyer for the Democrat wrote in the suit.
Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell released the following statement:
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions. Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies. Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date. Lieutenant Mike Hernandez will assume the duties of the UCISD Chief of Police.
“We will continue to seek qualified candidates to join our police department as we prepare for the new school year. There will be no further information released regarding this personnel matter.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.