The Chief of Uvalde PD, Pete Arredondo, was put on administrative leave after weeks of questioning and anger over the police’s slow reaction to the school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers. There have been many questions about the way the police acted that day, as the killer was able to stay almost an hour and twenty minutes in the school before Border patrol officers finally killed him.
Initially, it was said that the Uvalde authorities would wait for a full investigation of the massacre to be conducted before taking any decision on personnel. However, Hal Harrel, Uvalde’s superintendent changed his mind and decided to suspend Arredondo after he said there was no information on the current state of the investigations and there was a “lack of clarity” on when the information would be made available to the local authorities.
The suspension of Arredondo could be the first of many actions taken against the Uvalde PD, as the details of what happened in the 77 minutes period between the time the shooting started and the border patrol agents neutralized the shooter started to come to the light. While many of the details are still being investigated, the initial picture they paint is a Uvalde Police Department that decided not to immediately neutralize the shooter despite having both the equipment and the personnel to do so.
Uvalde PD officers stood outside the classroom for an hour
Recently, the Texas Tribune evaluated the footage from the school’s CCTV system and the transcripts from the police officers, which show that police officers with full tactical gear (including assault rifles and ballistic shields) were waiting just outside the classrooms 111 and 112, where the students were being shot by the killer. The officials, however, decided not to breach the doors.
The transcripts studied by the Tribune show that some of the agents on the ground openly questioned the orders to stand down. One officer from the Texas Department of Public Safety, who arrived 20 minutes after the shooting started, asked the rest of the agents if there were still kids inside the classroom, to which they answered that they did not know. The first officer said that if there were kids then they should enter immediately, but the other agents said that they were waiting for orders from superiors.
New footage also shows that the police officers from Uvalde did not try at any moment to breach the doors of either of the classrooms where the kids were. This is in clear contradiction to the initial statement made by the Uvalde Chief of Police, who said that the police tried to breach into the classrooms but they found them locked and decide to wait until a master key was brought to them.
Even if the doors were locked, which remains unknown, records and footage have shown that the agents in the school had enough equipment, personnel, and motivation to breach the classroom and neutralize the shooter well before the Border patrol agents came and secured the school. For example, the files analyzed by the Tribune show that the police had a Halligan bar, a tool used by firefighters to breach into locked doors, on-site but decided not to use it for at least 50 minutes.
The Uvalde massacre was one of the worst mass shootings in the history of the United States, and while the investigations are still in an initial phase, it is becoming increasingly clear that the doubts and questions over the way police reacted will not end quickly and that the suspension of the Uvalde Police Chief might be just the beginning.