The Uvalde, Texas, police chief who allegedly oversaw the police response to the Robb Elementary school shooting has now denied that he was the scene’s incident commander and insisted that his officers “never hesitated” in their response to the mass shootings.
Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District Police Department (UCISDPD) Chief Pete Arredondo has come under fire for the apparently delayed police response to the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
According to the Texas Tribune last week, Arredondo has rejected such criticism, asserting that he and his team worked tirelessly to enter the classroom where the shooter was hiding – the door to the classroom was locked and had a steel door jamb, making it impossible to kick in.
“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” Arredondo said. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
Arredondo said he and his team spent 40 minutes in the hallway outside the room waiting for tactical gear, a sniper and keys to get inside. The chief eventually tried dozens of keys on the locked door.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” Arredondo said. Nearly an hour and fifteen minutes after the shooting started, officers finally managed to unlock the door and fatally shoot the gunman.
During the time that officers struggled to enter the classroom, roughly 500 students were safely evacuated from the school, Arredondo said, insisting that he did all he could to protect as many people as possible.
“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff,” Arredondo said.
In the wake of the massacre, all eyes fell on Arredondo, who said he has received death threats, accusations of cowardice and incompetence, and a constant media presence that has forced him into hiding.
Arredondo also said that he was under the impression that a different officer or official had assumed command of incident response, and that he had assumed the role of front-line responder.
He said he never considered himself commander and never instructed police not to enter the building. “I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw told reporters that the commander on the scene – allegedly Chief Arredondo – believed that the situation had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject, which is why officers did not breach the classroom. The commander believed there were “no more children at risk,” he said.
“Obviously, you know, based upon the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was in fact still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject,” he said.
“With the benefit of hindsight, what I’m saying now, is that of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Period. There is no excuse for that,” McCraw admitted.