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Uvalde schools police Chief Pete Arredondo resigns from city council

Uvalde schools police Chief Pete Arredondo stands on a dirt road on the outskirts of town on June 8, 2022.
Evan L'Roy for The Texas Tribune
Uvalde schools police Chief Pete Arredondo stands on a dirt road on the outskirts of town on June 8, 2022.

Pete Arredondo, the law enforcement official state police said was most responsible for a flawed response to the Uvalde elementary school shooting in May, has resigned from the Uvalde City Council.

Arredondo, the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department, had been elected to the city council a few weeks before the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School that killed 19 children and two teachers.

He took the oath of office in secret and has not attended any of the council meetings since.

The Uvalde Leader-News first reported Arredondo's decision to resign. The city on Saturday afternoon released an unsigned statement that said officials learned of Arredondo's intentions through the Leader-News article but had not received formal notice from him even though resigning was "the right thing to do." An hour later, the city said it received Arredondo's resignation letter and publicly released it.

"After much consideration, it is in the best interest of the community to step down as a member of the City Council for District 3 to minimize further distractions," Arredondo wrote in the letter. "The Mayor, the City Council, and the City Staff must continue to move forward to unite our community, once again. God bless Uvalde."

The city charter dictates that voters will choose Arredondo's replacement in a special election.

The school district placed Arredondo, 51, on administrative leave June 22, the day after Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told a state Senate committee that police officers under the command of Arredondo could have ended the shooting within minutes of arriving, but the chief made "the wrong decision" not to do so.

It took more than an hour until law enforcement officers, including agents in a Border Patrol tactical unit, acting on their own initiative, entered the classroom and killed the gunman.

For weeks, some residents in Uvalde have called on Arredondo to step down as police chief. At the City Council meeting on Thursday, several family members of shooting victims demanded to know why Arredondo failed to show up for the second meeting in a row. According to the city charter, the city council could remove Arredondo if he missed a third straight meeting.

Residents have also criticized local police and city officials, whom they feel have provided inadequate information about the shooting. The city of Uvalde has refused to immediately release any records, even those unrelated to the shooting, and has hired a private law firm to assist in an effort to withhold information permanently.

Whether Arredondo intends to resign as the school district police chief is unclear. A district spokesperson said Arredondo remains on administrative leave. His lawyer did not respond.

Arredondo, a native of Uvalde who attended Robb Elementary as a child, has generally avoided appearing in public since the shooting. He said he chose not to attend any victims' funerals because he did not want his appearance to interfere with the ability of families to grieve.

In a lengthy interview with The Texas Tribune in early June, Arredondo maintained he was not the incident commander and never ordered officers to stand down. Arredondo said he spoke with the Tribune in part to refute the state police narrative that he was incompetent. He said he acted decisively as one of the first officers to arrive on scene but was thwarted by a classroom door he determined was locked. Arredondo said he then focused his efforts on finding a key that would open it, a process that took more than 40 minutes.

McCraw, the head of the state police, said last week that the doors were designed so they could not be been locked from the inside.

Officer body camera and school surveillance footage reviewed by the Tribune do not support some of Arredondo's claims. At no point before officers breached the classroom does Arredondo or any other officer try to turn the handles to the doors of the adjoining classrooms where the shooter was.

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