HOUSTON — On the three-month anniversary of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the school board —under persistent pressure from parents and growing anger among citizens— voted unanimously to fire police chief Pedro “Pete” Arrendondo.
Arredondo, who chose not to participate in the board meeting citing threats made against him, opted instead to send a 17-page statement through his attorney just minutes before the hearing was set to take place. The school board did not honor a request to have the letter read out loud and entered into the public record.
Arredondo was quick to blame the school district, suggesting it did not heed his recommendations for new fencing, magnetic locks, better communication equipment, and more staffing—suggestions that are virtually impossible with budget cuts to education across the state. His statement also acknowledges that police clearly understood what to expect once inside the school.
“The House Committee report describes shortcomings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and of various agencies and officers of law enforcement,” the statement reads. “At the outset, we acknowledge that those same shortcomings could be found throughout the State of Texas. At a minimum, school administrators and school district police tacitly condoned this behavior as they were aware of these unsafe practices and did not treat them as serious infractions requiring immediate correction.”
The statement does not address the mass shooter action strategy developed by Arredondo, his failure to adhere to his own policy, or Arredondo being listed as the commanding officer in the district’s active shooter plan. Instead, it focuses on Arredondo’s leadership during the active shooter event and puts much of the blame on others.
“Out of all the officers that were there, from all sorts of agencies and departments, not even one came to him with even a suggestion that he should take a different approach,” says the statement. “If anyone felt they had a better plan, he would have been all over it. So, it appears self-evident that all the officers that responded are reasonable and the actions he took were reasonable, or none of the officers who responded are reasonable police officers.”
The statement also paints Arredondo as a “fall guy” and “sacrificial lamb” after Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw “unfairly singled him out.”
“If leading from the front, after being shot at, calling for support, keys, extraction tools, SWAT, a sniper and taking action to save teachers and students located in the surrounding classrooms shows lack of leadership, then who knows what leadership is supposed to look like,” the statement reads. “Looking objectively, Chief Arredondo was actively engaged in saving school employees and students, and finding a means to enter the classrooms, undoubtedly saved lives.”
The statement then continues to paint Arredondo as courageous.
“Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer,” it says, “who with all of the other law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, should be celebrated for the lives saved, instead of vilified for those they couldn’t reach in time, and not for lack of effort.”
Most egregiously, the end of the statement employes inflammatory language and suggests Director McCraw is racist for his “off-the-cuff” comments and “pointing the finger at Chief Arredondo after recognizing the faults of his own officers.””The statement argues that McCraw utilized “a smoke screen” attempt to “blame the Mexican.”
“Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the Board immediately reinstate him, with all back pay and benefits and close the complaint as unfounded,” reads the statement.
Nineteen children and two teachers were shot and killed at the school on May 24. Suggesting that criticism against Arredondo and his firing constitutes a “public lynching” is not only abhorrent but diminishes the lives that were lost that day. It’s a slap in the face to the grieving families who have struggled on every day since that fateful day.