UVALDE, Texas — Pete Arredondo has been fired as Uvalde CISD's chief of police. The decision is effective immediately.
The vote by district school board members was unanimous Wednesday evening, in a meeting where the embattled Arredondo – who led the botched law enforcement response at Robb Elementary exactly three months ago – was a no-show.
Instead, his attorney submitted a 17-page statement calling for him to be reinstated with back pay. Arredondo had been on unpaid leave since July 22.
"Any allegation of lack of leadership is wholly misplaced," the statement asserts, arguing that Arredondo's actions at the school on May 24 potentially saved lives or further injury.
It also alleges Arredondo was put on unpaid leave “without any advanced notice” in July, and that the district “imposed last-minute procedural hurdles" ahead of Wednesday's hearing, violating his First Amendment rights.
“The district has successfully gagged Chief Arredondo to the point that he cannot participate,” the statement concludes.
The district had faced pressure to fire the police chief after Texas DPS revealed he was the incident commander on May 24. Wednesday's vote was preceded by a lengthy closed-doors session involving the school board, and was followed by those in attendance silently leaving while holding up signs. One had photos of the victims, and another read: "Amerie Forever."
The meeting had been postponed twice. The school district sent out a notice last week stating that they would discuss his termination Wednesday.
The meeting has been postponed in the past because the district can’t end Arredondo’s contract without giving their reasons why. Superintendent Hal Harrell recommended Arredondo's termination in July.
Many community members and victim’s families had called for the same. During Wednesday's public-comments section, Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old nephew Uziyah Garcia died at Robb Elementary, said the least the district could do is conduct its meetings in an open forum.
"For him to not be here and face the consequences of his own actions? Exactly,” the speaker said referring to Arredondo.
Another speaker added, "You are not going to sweep this under the rug.”
Amerie Jo Garza's father said that he wished his daughter was there so she could speak for herself, while also thanking the community for their support.
“Thank you everyone for being here for us. It means a lot,” he said. “We don’t know what to do. We want to fight for our children.”
The full statement from Arredondo's legal representation can be read below.
Arredondo has testified to the Texas House Committee that he believed the shooter was a barricaded subject instead of an active shooter. It took law enforcement more than an hour to confront the shooter.
And while Arredondo was listed in the district’s active shooter plan as the incident commander, the House Committee report showed law enforcement lacked clear leadership and communication. The report criticized Arredondo for wasting time trying to find a key to the classroom the shooter was in. He also didn’t take his radio with him.
In a statement provided on Thursday, the school board said Mike Hernandez, a lieutenant for the district's police force, would act as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found. The board also said it plans to have an external audit of the force.
"We are committed to doing what need to be done to maintain a learning environment that is safe, secure and nurturing for all students," Luis Fernandez, the school board president, is quoted as saying in the release.