Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school police chief who was incident commander during last month’s shooting at Robb Elementary, was placed on administrative leave by the school district Wednesday amid criticism of his response to the massacre. The move comes after weeks of conflicting stories and a shifting narrative, especially about law enforcement’s response and the willingness of Arredondo to participate in investigations since the shooting.
It’s the result of a growing call by some in the community, as well as across the state, for Arredondo to be taken off his position until it’s known fully what happened that day, said Tony Plohetski, an investigative reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE News who has been covering Uvalde.
“And it also comes amid his own personal testimony. Pete Arredondo came to the Texas Capitol this week to testify for 5 hours in front of a House investigative committee that is looking into the actions of police that day,” Plohetski said. “And so, the decision to place him on leave came after that testimony. Again, it was testimony that was in private. But we do have to wonder if new details may have emerged from his own statements that may have also prompted this as well.”
Uvalde mayor says state is scapegoating local police
Meanwhile, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw was extremely critical of the chief’s response to the mass shooting in a public Senate committee hearing this week. The mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, is accusing the state of scapegoating local police response to avoid blame at the state level.
“I’m not sure this can be squared with what we know at this point. I mean, certainly we have heard from the mayor of Uvalde. He’s saying very strong words about the investigation,” Plohetski said. “He feels as though there is an effort to place the blame on those local officers in Uvalde as opposed to DPS, which was also on the scene, taking a hard look at itself. But I think some of that is just going to have to get worked out and the weeks and possibly even months to come.”
» RELATED: Senate committee hearing on Uvalde response reveals ‘utter meltdown of command,’ lawmaker says
State lawmaker sues DPS over records related to shooting
Also on Wednesday, Democratic state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, sued the Department of Public Safety after it denied his request for records related to the shooting – information he says could clear the air about law enforcement’s response.
“We’ve seen a lot of finger-pointing from law enforcement, specifically the Texas Department of Public Safety pointing the fingers at every other law enforcement agency but themselves,” Gutierrez said. “I’m not here to cast blame; I’m here to try to find out, ‘how do we solve this into the future?’”
It’s unclear why DPS has not released some information, including body camera footage, Plohetski said
McCraw “did in fact, lay out publicly a significant timeline,” he said. “But at the same time, much of the information that really could help us understand in the most complete way possible – and I am talking about body camera footage as well as internal footage from inside the school – could help us even further. And so far it’s just kind of come out in more bits and pieces. I was able to personally watch some of the security camera footage from that school and and can attest to the fact that it did help with my own personal understanding about what happened that day.”