Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s embattled police chief has been placed on administrative leave, according to Superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell, KTLA sister station KXAN reported.
Harrell said in a statement that Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who has become the center of national criticism as details come out about how he and his officers responded to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School, is on leave effective Wednesday.
Harrell didn’t want to make any personnel decisions until the investigation into the shooting was complete, but because of “the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations,” he felt he had to make the call, the statement read.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” the statement said. “Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies.”
Harrell said Lt. Mike Hernandez will be the interim chief, and the district will, “continue to seek qualified candidates to join our police department as we prepare for the new school year.”
Police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it, the head of the Texas state police testified Tuesday, pronouncing the law enforcement response an “abject failure.”
Officers with rifles instead stood in a hallway for over an hour, waiting in part for more weapons and gear, before they finally stormed the classroom and killed the gunman, putting an end to the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
“I don’t care if you have on flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, you go in,” Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in blistering testimony at a state Senate hearing.
Delays in the law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School have become the focus of federal, state and local investigations.
McCraw lit into Arredondo, who McCraw said was in charge, saying: “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
Arredondo made “terrible decisions,” said McCraw, who lamented that the police response “set our profession back a decade.”
Arredondo has said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press, and his lawyer did not immediately respond Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.