Uvalde School District Places Police Chief Pete Arredondo on Administrative Leave, Superintendent Announces

“Due to the remaining lack of clarity and the unknown timing at which I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective this date,” Harrell wrote in the announcement to the media. media. .

Lt. Mike Hernandez assumes the duties of chief of police for UCISD, Harrell said.

The superintendent wrote that he intended to wait for an investigation to be completed before making personnel decisions.

“Today, I still have no details of investigations by various agencies,” he wrote.

Arredondo testified behind closed doors in Austin on Tuesday before a Texas House committee seeking answers about what happened on May 24 when 21 people were shot at an elementary school, but did not speak publicly about his taking. decision maker on the day of the shooting.

The school district’s announcement comes a day after the Uvalde City Council, of which Arredondo is a new member, voted to deny his leave request.

Harrell isn’t the only one who seems frustrated with the lack of information from investigators.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin on Tuesday criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for its lack of transparency and accused its director, Col. Steven McCraw, of intentionally downplaying his agency’s mistakes in the weeks following the Robb Elementary School massacre.

“Colonel McCraw continued, whether you wanted to call it lying, running away, misleading or twisting, information in order to steer his own soldiers and Rangers away from the response. At each briefing, he leaves out the number of his own officers and Rangers who were on site that day,” McLaughlin told residents at a town council meeting on Tuesday.

“Colonel McCraw has an agenda and it’s not about presenting a full report on what happened and giving factual answers about what happened to this community,” he added. .

Additionally, State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat representing Uvalde County, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against DPS, arguing that the agency violated Texas public information law when its request for information about the shooting was ignored.

“In the wake of this senseless tragedy, the people of Uvalde and Texas demanded answers from their government. To date, they have been faced with lies, inaccuracies and shifts in responsibility,” the lawsuit states.

The criticisms and lawsuit come shortly after McCraw testified before a Texas Senate committee that law enforcement’s response was a ‘dismal failure’ and violated commonly taught protocol to stop the shooter as quickly as possible. possible.

The DPS director accused Arredondo, whom McCraw and others identified as the on-scene commander, of ordering police to wait in a nearby hallway for useless equipment and keys to a door that was not not even locked.

“Three minutes after the subject entered the West Building, there were a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract and incapacitate the subject,” McCraw said. “The only thing stopping the Corridor of Dedicated Officers from entering Rooms 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander, who decided to put the lives of the officers ahead of the lives of the children.”

finger pointing adds additional tension to a tragedy that has become a case study in poor policing and worse communication. Almost a month has passed since an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at the school. He remained inside classrooms from 11:33 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. — when police finally broke through the door and killed him, according to a DPS timeline.

Yet authorities have repeatedly changed their account of key facts about what happened inside the chambers and what police did in response during those 77 minutes.

McLaughlin said the repeated inaccuracies and shifting of blame from Texas authorities is dividing the community and frustrating grieving families.

“What matters to Uvalde is that these heartbroken families and this grieving community get a full investigation and an accurate report of what happened that day,” he said. “Petty infighting, headlines about clickbait and politically motivated scapegoating don’t help anyone.”

CNN has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the District Attorney’s Office, the chairman of the Texas House Investigative Committee and the FBI’s San Antonio office for further comment.

State senator’s lawsuit challenges DPS secrecy

In his lawsuit filed Wednesday, Gutierrez challenged DPS decisions not to release information to the public, including police body camera footage, audio and ballistics reports from 911.

“DPS violated Chapter 552 of the Government of Texas by failing to provide allegedly public public records within a reasonable time,” the lawsuit states.

In a section titled “The Cover-Up,” the lawsuit notes that DPS used an exception to the law to keep the records private.

“These government agencies used the ‘ongoing law enforcement exception’ to the Texas Open Records Act to bar access to information that could shed light on the response to the school shooting. “, says the lawsuit.

Gutierrez asks the Travis County District Court to rule that DPS immediately provide the documents in its request for records.

A Texas public safety official says the police response to the shooting was a

District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee released a statement two weeks ago saying the shooting was being investigated by the FBI and Texas Rangers and that “any release of material about this incident at this time would interfere with said ongoing investigation and hinder a thorough and complete investigation.” .”

Still, Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, called for transparency in a statement Wednesday.

“It is important to note that Texas public information law does not require law enforcement investigators to withhold information about a crime from the public,” Shannon said. “Law enforcement’s exception to release is discretionary. In fact, many Texas police and prosecutors routinely release investigative information to the public when they feel the need – whether to help catch a wanted suspect, to get more advice on a crime or to highlight positive police performance.”

Mayor says frustrated with lack of transparency

At the city council meeting, McLaughlin noted that officers from at least eight law enforcement agencies were in the hallway outside classrooms on the day of the shooting. McLaughlin said he has no desire to run for elected office again and that he “isn’t covering for anyone”, saying all response agencies should be held accountable.

He said the leaking of some information over the past few weeks “continues to create chaos in our community and prevents the full truth from coming out.”

He took particular aim at what he said was a false report that local police were not cooperating with investigators, and he expressed frustration at being left in the dark.

“I’m just as frustrated — maybe not as frustrated as families who have lost loved ones — but it pisses me off that I can’t give you answers or can’t get you answers,” McLaughlin said. .

McLaughlin said he was supposed to receive a daily briefing from authorities since his start, but none was provided.

“The gloves are off. As we know, we’ll share it. We’re not going to hold back any longer,” he said.

McLaughlin has previously criticized the lack of transparency by investigators, telling a June 7 city council meeting, “We’ve had a few missteps with the DPS disclosing certain facts or different things, but those weren’t not the Rangers who were leading the investigation. I don’t blame anyone,” he said.
“We were told one thing one day, and the next day the story changed. You were told for a week that a teacher had held the door open with a rock, and by the end of the week that story had also gone. That’s the misstep. I’m talking,” he added.

The city council meeting also disputed Arredondo’s absence from the public eye.

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Andy Rose, Christina Maxouris, Amanda Musa, Rosalina Nieves, Amy Simonson, Travis Caldwell and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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