UNITED STATES. Texas: A local police chief accused and apprehended of delaying the rescue response to the fatal shooting of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, has been fired.
The local school board unanimously decided to fire Pete Arredondo, who had been on leave since June.
Arredondo’s lawyers said in a statement that the police chief was unaware that the victims were in the same room with the school shooter.
The shooting incident
The firing occurred three months since the attack and two weeks before the new school term began.
As of yet, the attack at Robb Elementary School on 24 May was the deadliest case of the school shooting in US history in nearly a decade.
Several parents and relatives of the school system have expressed anger and hatred towards the police chief’s lax response to a fatal attack that could have been avoided and countered.
There has been a growing concern about the nature of police brutality in the US, for which law enforcement must be held accountable.
Arredondo has shouldered the blame for the 77-minute delay in confronting the teenage gunman and is the first officer to be dismissed from service.
As the motion was passed to sack the police chief over the incident by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s board of trustees, a loud cheering erupted in the auditorium.
As Wednesday evening’s meeting began, some in the audience shouted slanders like: “Coward!”
Caitlin Gonzalez, a school pupil and survivor of the shooting spree, had only one message for the police chief: “Turn in your badge and step down.”
Ruben Torres, father of another victim, Chloe Torres, was at the school meeting on Wednesday and said, “Right now, being young, she is having a hard time handling this horrific event.”
Meanwhile, Arredondo’s lawyers, who were not present at the meeting, lashed back at public opinion and called their client “a courageous officer” and fired “an unconstitutional public lynching”.
They defended their client by alleging that Arredondo was unaware that he was in charge at the time.
The lawyers gave their defense in a 17-page statement in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper: “Chief Arredondo did the right thing.”
“Any allegation of lack of leadership is wholly misplaced.”
On the contrary, the attorneys attacked the school board for their failure to conduct a proper probe into the matter or “to establish evidence supporting a decision to terminate” his client.
The attorneys also alleged that the former police chief was forbidden to carry his gun during the hunt and to conduct a futile attempt to open a door “believed to be locked”.
But an inquiry heard in June revealed that neither was any door locked nor did the officers make any effort to open it.
Texas public safety chief Steven McCraw testified to a state Senate hearing that there were enough police officers on the scene to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building.
Labeling the response an “established failure”, McCraw also said Arredondo had “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children”.
McCraw’s department is also under scrutiny – it had more than 90 state troopers at the massacre scene.
Robb Elementary school will not be welcoming their students as of yet, until their new session begins on 6 September . Instead, it will be taught in other classrooms in Uvalde or via virtual schooling.