The Uvalde school district’s embattled police chief, Pete Arredondo, was fired on Wednesday, exactly three months to the day after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, which left 19 children and two adults dead.
In a unanimous vote, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s Board of Trustees agreed to fire Arredondo following months of calls for his ousting due to allegations that he made several critical mistakes during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
The auditorium where the vote to fire Arredondo took place was filled with parents and survivors of the May 24 massacre. Cheers from the crowd followed the vote, while some parents cried.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, has faced the most scrutiny of the nearly 400 officers who responded to the massacre. Arredondo was the commander in charge of the local, state, and federal law enforcement officers who responded, according to a special Texas House Committee investigation.
Officers waited more than an hour to breach the classrooms and take down the 18-year-old gunman. Arredondo testified to the House committee that he believed the shooter was a barricaded subject instead of an active shooter.
Arredondo was not present at the meeting on Wednesday to face his possible termination. However, minutes before the meeting began his attorney, George Hyde, released a 17-page, 4,500-word letter vigorously defending the police response to the shooting.
The letter portrayed Arredondo as a brave officer whose decisions saved the lives of other students. It also alleged that Arrendondo warned school district officials about various security issues in the schools a year before the shooting and asserted that he did not know he was in charge of the scene.
“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer who with all of the other law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved, instead of vilified for those they couldn’t reach in time,” Hyde wrote.
The letter also accused Uvalde school officials of risking his safety by not letting him carry a weapon to the school board meeting.
“Despite knowledge of legitimate risks of harm to the public and to Chief Arredondo and all others intending to be present, the district deprives the Chief of his right to lawfully carry a weapon, while at the same time, fails to disclose any alternative and reliable safety measures,” Hyde said.
Hyde added that Arredondo would not be attending the board’s meeting and requested his reinstatement with backpay from his time on unpaid leave.
“Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the board immediately reinstate him, with all back pay and benefits and close the complaint as unfounded,” Hyde stated.
Uvalde school officials had been under mounting pressure from victims’ families and community members, demanding Arredondo’s termination.
The meeting to vote on Arredondo’s termination was postponed twice because the district could not end Arredondo’s contract without giving their reasons why. Uvalde CISD Superintendent Hal Harrell recommended Arredondo’s termination in July.
Among those in attendance on Wednesday was Vincent Salazar, whose 11-year-old granddaughter Layla was killed in the shooting.
“We got a bittersweet victory and it was good. But like I said, the fight has just begun,” Salazar told Fox News. “We’ve got to clean the city up – for the people and about the people, and like I said, the buddy system doesn’t work here no more.”
Jesse Rizo, the uncle of victim Jacklyn Cazares, said Arredondo’s termination was long overdue.