Calls grow louder for Uvalde's police chief to be fired
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In the almost two months since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, calls have grown for the school district's police chief to be fired. It took law enforcement more than an hour to confront the gunman who was holed up in a fourth-grade classroom. He killed 21 people, including 19 students. Today, the superintendent of the school district said he wants that police chief to be fired.
To bring us up to date, we're joined by Camille Phillips of Texas Public Radio. Hi, Camille.
CAMILLE PHILLIPS, BYLINE: Hello.
SHAPIRO: Tell us more about Police Chief Pete Arredondo.
PHILLIPS: Well, he's the chief of the Uvalde school district's tiny, five-officer police force. Remember, here in Texas, many school districts employ their own police department that is separate from the city's force. Arredondo was singled out as incident commander during the shooting early on by state officials, the one who made the decision to wait 73 minutes to breach the classroom where the gunman was holed up. State officials called the law enforcement response to the shooting an abject failure.
He said virtually nothing publicly since this all began. He did testify in private before a state legislative committee investigating what happened, and he's also resigned his post as an elected city council member. He took office literally days after the shooting, but recently, under pressure, he stepped down.
SHAPIRO: So why did it take so long for the superintendent to recommend his termination as police chief?
PHILLIPS: That's a good question. Uvalde residents, including the families of the victims, have been calling for Arredondo's termination for weeks. At a heated school board forum this past Monday, those demands were laid out over and over. Brett Cross, the uncle of Uziyah Garcia, even gave them a deadline. Uziyah is one of the 19 children killed in the shooting.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRETT CROSS: If he's not fired by noon tomorrow, then I want your resignation and every single one of you board members because y'all do not give a damn about our children or us.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Resign now. Resign. Resign.
CROSS: Stand with us or against us because we ain't going nowhere.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Resign.
PHILLIPS: At first, the superintendent, Hal Harrell, refused to answer any questions about Arredondo's employment status. Then late last month, he released a statement saying he wanted to wait for the investigations to be completed before deciding what to do. But because it wasn't clear when those investigations would be completed, he said he decided to place Arredondo on administrative leave. Then the Texas House committee investigating the school shooting released a report last weekend that said there was no clear leadership during the shooting but that the Uvalde school district's active shooter plan, co-written by Arredondo, called for him to be in charge.
SHAPIRO: Well, what's likely to happen now?
PHILLIPS: Well, Arredondo is not fired yet. The school board will meet on Saturday to discuss his termination in closed session. According to the school board agenda, the superintendent is recommending he be terminated for good cause. This news comes as other law enforcement agencies are under closer scrutiny for their role in the response at Robb Elementary. The mayor of Uvalde placed a lieutenant on leave earlier this week. He was the city's active police chief on the day of the shooting. The Texas House committee report revealed that there were nearly 400 law enforcement officers at the school that day. And for many people in Uvalde, these changes announced this week are not enough. They want everyone held accountable, from the school superintendent to the principal to the other law enforcement agencies involved.
SHAPIRO: That's Texas Public Radio's Camille Phillips in San Antonio. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.