The Uvalde school district fired police chief Pete Arrendondo on Wednesday, making him the first officer to lose his job over the hesitant and fumbled response by law enforcement at a Texas elementary school as a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom.
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) sealed Pete Arredondo's fate on Wednesday - three months to the day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in one of the deadliest classroom attacks in US history.
Arredondo's lawyers said in a written statement that he had been unaware anyone was inside the classrooms with the shooter.
The firing came three months to the day since the attack and two weeks before the new school term begins.
Cheers from the crowd followed the vote, and some parents walked out of an auditorium in tears. Outside, several Uvalde residents called for other officers to be held accountable.
“Coward!” some in the audience yelled as the meeting got underway.
Arredondo, who has been on leave from the district since June 22, has come under the most intense scrutiny of the nearly 400 officers who rushed to school but waited more than 70 minutes to confront the 18-year-old gunman in a fourth-grade classroom.
Most notably, Arredondo was criticized for not ordering officers to act sooner. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said Arredondo was in charge of the law enforcement response to the attack.
Police chief's defensive letter
Minutes before the meeting of the Uvalde school board got underway, Arredondo’s attorney released a scathing 4,500-word letter that amounted to the police chief’s fullest defense to date of his actions.
Over 17 defiant pages, Arredondo is not a fumbling school police chief who a damning state investigation blamed for not taking command and wasted time by looking for keys to a likely unlocked door, but a brave officer whose level-headed decisions saved the lives of other students.
It alleges that Arredondo warned the district about a variety of security issues in the schools a year before the shooting and asserted he wasn’t in charge of the scene.
The letter also accused Uvalde school officials of putting his safety at risk by not letting him carry a weapon to the school board meeting if he were to attend, citing “legitimate risks of harm to the public and to Chief Arredondo.”
(with inputs from AP)