Pete Arrendondo, currently the police chief of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, has quit his City Council seat.
In a resignation letter that the city government released on Saturday, Arrendondo, who has been under heavy criticism over his response to the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, said that he is quitting “to minimize further distractions” in Uvalde.
“The mayor, the city council, and the city staff must continue to move forward to unite our community once again,” Arredondo said in his letter, first reported by the Uvalde Leader-News.
Uvalde’s government said in a statement that Arredondo’s resignation was “the right thing to do.”
Arredondo was elected to Uvalde’s City Council on May 7, just a few weeks before the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. He was later sworn in on May 31 in a closed-door ceremony, just a week after the shooting.
He has been on administrative leave from his duties as police chief since June 22. Uvalde Schools District Superintendent Hal Harrell announced that Lt. Mike Hernandez, a retired city police officer, would replace Arredondo and serve as the school district’s interim police chief.
The change came after more than 100 Uvalde residents, including relatives of the shooting victims, called for Arredondo to be sacked at a school board meeting on June 20. Many, including parents and other officials, have expressed anger over delays in the police response to the shooting.
During the May 24 shooting, 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos entered a classroom at Robb Elementary School where he killed his victims.
At a state Senate hearing last month, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw said that police officers wasted time that day searching for a key to the classroom—but the door wasn’t locked.
As many as 19 officers waited more over an hour outside the classroom before a tactical team led by U.S. Border Patrol entered the room and killed Ramos.
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said at the Senate hearing on June 21.
Conflicting Accounts of Shooting
McCraw previously told reporters on May 27 that police delayed in taking down the gunman because “the on-scene commander at the time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject.” McCraw was referring to Arredondo as the on-scene commander.
Arredondo told The Texas Tribune in an article published on June 9 that the door was locked. The outlet had reported that the door was locked and and reinforced with a steel jamb that was “impossible to kick in.”
He also said never considered himself incident commander and “didn’t issue any orders” telling police to not try to breach the classroom. He “assumed that some other officer or official had taken control of the larger response,” reported the Tribune. “He took on the role of a front-line responder.”
Arredondo also said he didn’t have his police and campus radios. Instead, he used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper, and keys to the classroom.
The account conflicts with what McCraw told lawmakers on June 21.
McCraw said the classroom door wasn’t locked and that police didn’t even try to open the classroom without a key. Texas DPS reviewed video evidence that showed no one in the hallway touched the door handle to check whether it was locked while Ramos was inside the classroom, McCraw said, adding that even the officers who breached the classroom told investigators they didn’t try the door handle before they entered the classroom.
“The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said, referring to Arredondo.
“The officers had weapons, while the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none,” McCraw said. “One [hour], 14 minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long the children waited, and the teachers waited, in Room 111 to be rescued.
“And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for a radio and rifles. And he waited for shields, and he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include further details.