Former Uvalde police chief Pete Arredondo reportedly told investigators he prioritized saving students in other classrooms at Robb Elementary School rather than confronting the gunman who ended up killing 19 students and two teachers.
Arredondo told investigators on May 25, a day after the massacre, that he made the critical decision after the gunman went inside two classrooms, according to footage obtained by CNN.
The embattled officer said he assumed the children inside those classrooms were already dead, based on the sounds of the gunfire he heard, which was why he chose to prioritize evacuating other students and faculty.
“Once I realized that was going on, my first thought was that we need to vacate,” Arredondo told Texas Department of Safety Public investigators. “We have him contained — and I know this is horrible, and I know it’s what our training tells us to do — but, we have him contained; there’s probably going to be some deceased in there, but we don’t need any more from out here.”
That decision — Arredondo ordering that the gunman be treated as a barricaded subject, not an active shooter — would prove to be one of the significant missteps surrounding the May 24 massacre.
Survivors and several victims were left to bleed out for more than an hour in a room with the gunman. Students in the room called 911, all while officers remained outside.
Arredondo admitted he understood the criticism of his actions, despite defending what he thought was a perfectly suitable explanation.
“We’re going to get scrutinized. I’m expecting that. We’re getting scrutinized for why we didn’t go in there,” he said.
Arredondo did come under heavy scrutiny following the shooting, claiming later that he had no radio contact while inside the school, never considered himself the incident commander, and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the classrooms.
But body cam footage obtained by CNN refuted this.
“We’re going to clear out this building before we do any breach,” Arredondo allegedly told officers in the hallway at about 12:08 p.m. “As soon as they clear this room, I’m going to verify what’s been vacated, guys, before we do any kind of breaching.”
That footage and his admissions to investigators the day after the shooting reveal Arredondo was giving directions the day of the tragedy.
The CNN report noted that Arredondo did not follow the typical protocol for an active shooter event.
Active shooter protocols mandate responders “isolate, distract, and neutralize” a gunman and usually instruct officers to “place themselves in harm’s way and display uncommon acts of courage to save the innocent.”
Arredondo had completed three active shooter trainings — one in June 2019, a second in August 2020, and a third in December 2021, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records.
The former police chief also admitted he heard the gunman reload his weapon, yet he still took no action to stop him.
“I am assuming he reloaded; I know he did something with it,” Arredondo told investigators. “I did hear that at one time; I don’t know if there was a second.”
In the body cam video obtained by CNN, he went on to say: “Time’s on our side right now. I know we probably have kids in there, but we’ve got to save the lives of the other ones.”
Arredondo was fired by the school district in August 2022.