The chief of the Uvalde, Texas, school district’s police department claims he issued no orders because he did not consider himself in charge.
Chief Peter Arredondo claimed he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander and gave no instruction telling other officers they should not attempt to breach the building, according to a Texas Tribune report. Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety described Arredondo as the incident commander. They further said Arredondo made the call to stand down and treat the incident as a “barricaded suspect,” according to the report. Those decisions, which halted the attempt to enter the room and take down the shooter, have been widely panned by other law enforcement agencies.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo insisted. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
The chief of Uvalde School District’s six-member police department defended his actions on May 24 after learning a gunman attacked Robb Elementary School.
Uvalde is a small working-class city of about 15,000 people west of San Antonio, noted Arredondo’s lawyer, George E. Hyde. Hyde explained its small group of school police officers lack the staffing, equipment, training or experience with mass violence that larger cities have.
He claimed his client ran straight toward danger armed with only his 29 years of law enforcement experience and a Glock 22 handgun. He stated, with no body armor and no second thoughts Arredondo had committed to stop the shooter or die trying.
But he was stymied by a key, according to the report. Measures designed to keep shooters from breaching locked classrooms, such as doors made resistant to being kicked down through steel reinforced bars kept police out.
Even after the correct key was finally found, the automatically darkened classroom delayed identifying the shooter. That allowed the 18-year-old killer to lob a few rounds at law enforcement officers before he died from return fire.
“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.”
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