Perhaps yesterday’s news about the cop who was stopped from entering the school while his wife bled out inside was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back. Uvalde schools police Chief Pete Arredondo has been suspended from duty as of yesterday evening. The decision was made by the district school superintendent, but his explanations as to why Arredondo was suspended now and what the suspension means were vague at best. He talked about how the chief had “erred in his response” and spoke of the “lack of clarity” in terms of what happened. When asked if Arredondo’s “administrative leave” means he will still be getting paid, a spokesperson for the district refused to say, so we can probably take that as a “yes.” (Associated Press)
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said that he put schools police Chief Pete Arredondo on administrative leave because the facts of what happened remain unclear. In a statement, Harrell did not address Arredondo’s actions as on-site commander during the attack but said he didn’t know when details of multiple investigations into the law enforcement response to the slayings would be revealed.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date.”
I’m going to take issue with the superintendent’s characterizations of the situations on several counts. I went back through the archives this week to look at the original timeline of events provided by the police to the Department of Safety and the media in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. We’re no longer talking about a “lack of clarity” and errors in the response. There could have been clarity on day one.
The reason that there still hasn’t been clarity is that a lot of those cops, starting with Arredondo, blatantly lied. And since they won’t fess up to that, we are left to guess as to the reason. Is there any other plausible explanation beyond the reality that they knew they screwed up majorly and they didn’t want that story making it out to the public?
We heard the description of a fictional school safety officer who got into a shootout with the heavily armed and armored suspect but was outgunned. We were fed a cock-and-bull story about heroic police who came to the scene as soon as they could after that but lacked the equipment needed to go in and take down the madman. We were assured that Arredondo himself was frantically trying one key after another to gain entry to a classroom with a door that could not be locked from the inside.
Three minutes. Three damn minutes. There were officers with rifles and ballistic shields standing only feet from the door when the shooting inside had barely begun and not one of them even tried to open the door. Was that Arredondo’s fault personally? Since he apparently decided that the “active shooter” situation had changed to a “barricaded suspect” scenario, he likely gave an order for everyone to hold back. (We can’t know for sure because so much of what he’s said has turned out to be blatant lies.)
But at the same time, those officers in the hallway outside the classroom had a choice to make. Even if they were told to hold back, they could hear the gunfire. They knew the shooter was killing children inside. That moment demanded a hero to step up, orders be damned. But not one of them did. The only “miracle” to come out of that day is the fact that anyone inside the classroom survived.
Something is indeed very wrong inside of the Uvalde Schools Police Department. Perhaps it does start at the top. But it clearly goes deeper than that. And the fact that the police have retained a private attorney to fight the release of the photos and footage from that day tells you that the attempt at a coverup is not over yet.