Uvalde School Chief Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School Officer for Police, describes the events that took place in the Robb Elementary School hallway. Arredondo described the wait for a key that would eventually open the steel door and allow officers to put an end to last month’s mass shooting.
The Texas Tribune reports that Arredondo provides new insight into the controversy surrounding the police response to the shooting. It also disputes claims that he was in fact the incident commander on that particular day. Arredondo stated that he was a first responder when he arrived at school and continued to walk the halls trying to reach the shooter behind steel doors.
Arredondo, who heads the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s six-officer police force, faced intense criticism for the response to the shooting and has been described as the Incident Commander by state authorities — therefore singularly responsible for the delay in reaching the shooter. Breitbart Texas reported that Arredondo was among those who received death threats.
Arredondo disputes assertions that officers’ actions were cowardly and incompetent, telling the Tribune, “Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children. We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced.”He continued, “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.”
Hyde, Arredondo’s attorney, also disputes assertions that officers’ actions were incompetent and cowardly, telling the Tribune the criticisms do not reflect the realities police face when under fire and trying to save lives. Hyde described the difficulties faced by the 15,000. The Tribune was told by Hyde that the school’s small police force does not have enough staff, equipment, and experience to deal with large-scale violence in comparison to other larger towns.
Hyde said that the client, who was armed only with a 9mm gun and 29 years’ experience as a peace officers, ran directly toward danger. He was not wearing body armor.
Arredondo says that his most important decision was the immediate reaction to the shooting at school. Around 11:35 AM, he moved his police radios to the side of the school. Arredondo said to Tribune that his decision was logic. He believed every second was important and wanted his weapons to be in his hands.
Arredondo did not speak out sooner because he did not want to compound the community’s grief or place blame on others, he told the Tribune.
According to him, he thought he was always the first one to arrive. He also believed that the radios would hinder his progress. Based on his experiences in the area, he also doubted the effectiveness of the radios inside the school. He was unable to communicate effectively with other officers as a result and had to resort to using a cellphone.
Arredondo joined Uvalde Police officers as they searched for the gunman. Arredondo stated that a teacher directed them towards the area where the gunman was hiding. They soon found out the truth. “great deal of rounds” being fired. He thought that this was the moment the gunman entered open school.
Arredondo attempted to get behind the gunman and tried to unlock both classroom doors but they were closed. Arredondo claimed to the Tribune that some bullets had traveled through the classroom doors, injuring the officers who were in the hallway. After suffering from grazing bullet injuries, the officers returned to control the gunman.
Arredondo claims that the student security measures that were designed to prevent him reaching the gunman prevented him. Arredondo explained to Tribune that his classroom door had a steel jamb which prevented police officers from trying to kick it in. Also, the classroom lights were turned off.
Arredondo was not carrying his radios with him at the time of shooting, so he could not receive information from 911. He did not know of any 911 calls that were made by children. According to He, officers relayed information through whispering in fear of increasing gunfire.
Arredondo claimed to have called the police dispatch using his cell phone in order to request SWAT and snipers as well as tools to open the school’s door. He stated that he felt another officer, or official, had control over the bigger response as he assumed the role of front-line responder.
Arredondo’s assertion of this to the Tribune is in keeping with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The NIMS was developed in 2005 as the guiding principle for FEMA’s emergency response. It states that the commanding officer of any incident can change due to a number of factors. The arrival of an incident commander with greater authority and qualifications from FEMA is one of these reasons.
In the days that followed the shooting, statements made by Texas DPS indicated that they considered Arredondo to be the incident commander. The director of Texas Highway Patrol stated that a teacher had left the door open to allow the gunman into the classroom. Later, an attorney retained to dispute this information led the Texas Highway Patrol director to retract the information and correct the information through a department spokesperson.
Arredondo said that the officers who were in the corridor had limited options. Arredondo tried communicating with the gunman via the walls, but was unsuccessful. Arredondo was still unable to communicate with the gunman and ordered officers to evacuate the building.
“The ammunition was penetrating the walls at that point,”Arredondo spoke to the Tribune “We’ve got him cornered, we’re unable to get to him. You realize you need to evacuate those classrooms while we figured out a way to get in.”
Arredondo requested keys in order to gain entry to his classroom. However, he was not given the tools he needed. His police force didn’t have master keys that allowed them to enter the schools in their area. Arredondo’s attorney told the Tribune the school did not have a modern system of locks and access control. “You’re talking about a key ring that’s got to weigh 10 pounds,”Hyde stated.
Six keys were initially given to Arredondo by a janitor. None of the keys worked. Arredondo was later given an additional 20-30 key set. Arredondo claims that he attempted each key set but none of them opened the door.
“I was praying one of them was going to open up the door each time I tried a key,”Arredondo stated this in an interview. Arredondo was eventually contacted by officers from the other side of the hall to find the key.
The Border Patrol agents, along with local law enforcement, quickly formed a team and rushed to the front door. After the gunman was killed, Arredondo began the difficult task of caring for the wounded. He helped the children in the corridor and then took them to the emergency room.
Arredondo said to the Tribune that his department also suffered in the wake of the shooting. Eva Mireles, one of the two teachers killed that day, was married to one of his department’s officers, Ruben Ruiz. He has been working extra shifts to help his colleagues grieve.
Arredondo summarized the situation saying that those who threaten officers on this day only react to assumptions, not the entire story. “Those are people who just don’t know the whole story that are making their assumptions on what they’re hearing or reading. That’s been difficult,”He spoke to the Tribune.
Arredondo feels that both he, as well as the officers responding to the shooting, were ultimately able save lives. He is proud of these efforts.
“No one in my profession wants to ever be in anything like this, but being raised here in Uvalde, I was proud to be here when this happened. I feel like I came back home for a reason, and this might possibly be one of the main reasons why I came back home. We’re going to keep on protecting our community at whatever cost,”He was satisfied.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. He was the former Division Chief of Law Enforcement Operations and directed operations at nine Border Patrol Stations in the Del Rio Sector, Texas. Follow him Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX
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