The Uvalde School Police Chief is speaking out after the tragedy that unfolded at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last month.
As you may know, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo was in charge when 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos opened fire on the elementary school on May 24, resulting in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers. Following the mass shooting, his performance has been largely criticized, including how it took officers roughly an hour to deal with the shooter and his lack of cooperation with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s investigation. Not to mention the fact that the police department’s story kept changing on a daily basis.
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But one of the biggest criticisms? As the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw puts it, the fact that he allegedly ordered cops to not try and breach the classroom where Ramos had barricaded himself inside with children after believing the attack was over:
“The on-scene commander at that time believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject. From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There’s no excuse for that.”
Now, Pete has addressed the backlash in his first extensive interview since the horrific attack…
Speaking with the Texas Tribune, the school police chief slammed the narrative, claiming he had no idea that he was considered the person in charge as the attack unfolded and assumed some other official took control of the response. Instead, Pete saw himself as a front-line responder and not the incident commander. He then added that he never instructed anyone to not breach the building, saying:
“I didn’t issue any orders. I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
Furthermore, Pete told the publication that he intentionally left behind his police and campus radios before entering the school believing it “would slow him down” due to the “whiplike antenna that would hit him” while the other would “fall off his tactical belt during a long run.” He also knew from experience that the radios wouldn’t work in some school buildings. Additionally, Pete wanted both hands free to hold his gun so he could fire it accurately.
However, that resulted in Pete being cut off from communication with other officers from five agencies and 911 dispatchers – meaning he was not aware that students and teachers in the classroom were alive and calling for help.
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No doubt things might have played out differently if he had been able to receive those important details from the radios in the moment…
When in the hallway outside the classroom, Pete said the locked door was reinforced with a “hefty steel jamb” that prevented him from getting inside the room. He ended up calling for tactical gear, a sniper, and keys to the door, avoiding the door for 40 minutes in fear that might provoke more gunfire from Ramos. While they were unable to get into the area, Pete said he focused on getting other kids out and had other cops break windows to remove them from the building. His attorney George E. Hyde said:
“It’s not that someone said stand down. It was: ‘Right now, we can’t get in until we get the tools. So we’re going to do what we can do to save lives.’ And what was that? It was to evacuate the students and the parents and the teachers out of the rooms.”
Video footage reviewed by The New York Times showed the moment Pete learned there were several students inside the classrooms Ramos had entered that day. At one point, multiple gunshots could be heard inside with a man believed to be Pete commenting on how much time has passed:
“We think there are some injuries in there. And so you know what we did, we cleared off the rest of the building so we wouldn’t have any more, besides what’s already in there, obviously. People are going to ask why we’re taking so long. We’re trying to preserve the rest of the life.”
When the keys arrived, he told the Texas Tribune that he tried dozens of them but they each failed to work:
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying.”
It took 77 minutes after the shooting started until officers were able to unlock the door and finally take down the gunman. But by then it was too late. Pete defended himself against the criticism over the delayed response he has received from the public, saying:
“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children. We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
Sorry, there were just so many mistakes that could have been avoided here. Between leaving behind the radios, having nothing in place to access rooms inside the building ASAP, adding to chaos by holding back parents instead of confronting the shooter, etc., it’s beyond frustrating to see the department fail to accept more accountability here. If they can’t fully face their mistakes, then they can’t learn how to better prepare for (God forbid) another event like this. And if they’re not focused on learning how to better protect and serve, then quite frankly, WTF are they even doing with everyone’s taxes?!
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[Image via KHOU11/KENS 5/YouTube]