Pete Arredondo — the police chief of the Uvalde, Texas school district where 21 people were killed in a mass shooting last month — is on administrative leave, according to the district’s superintendent.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell announced on Wednesday that district officials intended to “wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” the Associated Press reports.
“Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies,” Harrell said. “Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date.”
According to Harrell, Lt. Mike Hernandez will take over the duties of UCISD chief of police. The news comes after the Uvalde City Council unanimously denied Arredondo, a council member, a leave of absence on Tuesday.
Arredondo was elected to the council on May 7. Just over two weeks later, on May 24, a gunman barricaded himself inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. After more than an hour, police stormed the classroom and murdered him.
The UCISD police chief did not attend this Tuesday’s city council meeting, and he missed an emergency session held shortly after the shooting.
The council unanimously voted to deny Arredondo a leave of absence, meaning if he misses the next two meetings, the city council can remove him for failing to perform his duties.
Several Uvalde residents attended the meeting to oppose Arredondo’s leave of absence request. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said that the council would likely remove Arredondo if he continues to leave his council duties unfilled.
“We heard our citizens tonight, loud and clear,” McLaughlin said. “If he misses his three meetings, I’m sure Pete will go.” He added, “I’ll vote ‘yes’ (to remove Arredondo).”
During a Tuesday hearing in the Texas State Senate, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) blamed Arredondo for officers’ delay in confronting the gunman, according to The Dallas Express.
DPS Director Steve McCraw said that three minutes after the gunman entered the building, there were enough officers on the scene to stop him.
He called the police response an “abject failure” that ignored lessons from previous shootings and said Arredondo ultimately “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
McLaughlin criticized McCraw’s briefing, the Statesman reports. He said he and other local officials had been asked not to discuss the shooting and the law enforcement response as multiple investigations continued, while state officials consistently neglected to share information with them.
“They can go to Austin and have public deals to talk about it … and not share a damn thing with this city or anybody in this community, and that’s wrong,” he said. “That’s totally wrong.”