'for good cause'
The Uvalde, Texas, school district board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday night to fire school police chief Pete Arredondo, three months after the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, one of the deadliest in U.S. history. Arredondo was one of the first officers at the school after an 18-year-old gunman entered adjoining classroom sand started shooting, eventually killing 19 fourth graders and two teachers. Police did not enter the classrooms and confront the shooter for more than an hour.
Arredondo was supposed to be the on-scene incident commander, according to the district's school shooing plan. He has been on leave since June 22. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell recommend he be fired "for good cause" in July, but postponed action on the motion at the request of Arredondo's lawyer. He is the first of the nearly 400 law enforcement officers at the scene to lose his job, and only one other officer, acting Uvalde police chief, Lt. Mariano Pargas, is known to have been put on leave, The Associated Press reports.
Arredondo did not attend the meeting, citing threats made against him, but shortly before the board met his lawyer released a 17-page letter defending the former chief's actions and demanding his reinstatement.
"Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the Board immediately reinstate him, with all backpay and benefits and close the complaint as unfounded," lawyer George Hyde wrote. "Chief Arredondo is a leader and a courageous officer 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."
Jesse Rizo, whose niece Jacke Cazares was killed in the shooting, criticized the "audacity" of Arredondo asking for his job back, with backpay. "Who would come up with that?" he asked The Texas Tribune. "You didn't have a car wreck into a stop sign. You had a loss of life. Twenty-one of them."
The school year begins in Uvalde on Sept. 6, and Robb Elementary School will not be used, AP reports. "Instead, campuses elsewhere in Uvalde will serve as temporary classrooms for elementary school students, not all of whom are willing to return to school in-person following the shooting."