The Uvalde school district police chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who authorities say erroneously ordered officers to wait outside the Robb elementary classroom where a gunman killed 21 last week, has been sworn into the Texas community’s city council.
Arredondo, 61, won a seat on Uvalde’s city council on 7 May, 17 days before 19 students and two teachers were shot dead at Robb’s campus. A swearing-in ceremony for him and other elected members of the council had been set for Tuesday – the public event was canceled “out of respect” for families burying slain loved ones, though Arredondo and the others privately took their oaths of office, Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin, said in a statement.
McLaughlin’s statement said the oaths had to be administered by Tuesday under city law.
The orders given to officers responding to the 24 May massacre at Robb elementary by Arredondo have come under intense scrutiny. Officials have said students and teachers begged 911 operators for help as Arredondo told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway outside the classroom where all the murders occurred, believing the gunman was barricaded in an adjoining classroom and no longer actively endangering students or teachers .
After more than an hour, border patrol agents confronted the gunman and killed him.
Waiting “was the wrong decision”, the Texas department of public safety’s leader, Steven McCraw, has since told reporters. “Obviously … there were children in that classroom at risk.”
After repeated mass killings nationwide in recent decades, police have been trained to fight active shooters and neutralize them as quickly as possible instead of cornering them and waiting for backup. Arredondo had taken multiple courses aimed at handling school-based active shooter scenarios before the slayings under his watch, according to CBS News and other media outlets.
Arredondo did not respond to a message seeking comment on Tuesday and has been mostly quiet since providing the media with an initial account of the school shooting.
On Wednesday, however, he told CNN that he’s talking daily with Texas department of public safety investigators, contradicting claims from state law enforcement that he has stopped cooperating.
“I’ve been on the phone with them every day,” Arredondo said.
“Our parents deserve answers, and I trust the Texas department of public safety [and] Texas Rangers will leave no stone unturned,” McLaughlin’s statement added. “Our emotions are raw, and hearts are broken.”
The US justice department, at McLaughlin’s request, is also conducting a review of the police response to the shootings.
After his election to the city council, Arredondo told the Uvalde Leader-News that he was “ready to hit the ground running” on behalf of his constituents in the mostly Hispanic town of fewer than 16,000 residents.
“I have plenty of ideas, and I definitely have plenty of drive,” Arredondo told the outlet.
Before becoming the chief of the Uvalde school district’s police force in 2020 after nearly three decades in law enforcement, he served as a captain at a school district police force in Laredo, Texas, and worked for Uvalde’s municipal police department.
He won his council seat with 126 votes, or nearly 70% of the ballots cast in the election.