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Arredondo's attorney hints at lawsuit in lengthy statement

The 17-page defense says Pete Arredondo became a "sacrificial lamb." The letter also praises the former chief as "brave."

SAN ANTONIO — In a 17-page statement, Pete Arredondo's attorney argues the Uvalde school board broke federal law when it fired its police chief. 

George Hyde contends the district violated Arredondo's 14th Amendment right to due process. He argues the chief did not have a fair opportunity to "clear his name."

The lawyer released the statement Wednesday, moments before the school board met to terminate Arredondo's contract. Neither Hyde nor his client attended the hearing, where they would've been allowed to present their defense behind closed doors. 

"Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests the Board immediately reinstate him, with all backpay and benefits and close the complaint as unfounded," Hyde wrote.

Law enforcement, analysts, and lawmakers have consistently said Arredondo should've assumed command of the police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary. He failed to do so, they say, creating an absence of leadership that led to dysfunction. 

Arredondo says he never issued any orders and never considered himself in charge.  

Hyde writes the chief couldn't have been incident commander, arguing the "incident" began when the gunman shot his grandmother at her home in an area the Uvalde sheriff's office is responsible for. 

The school shooting was part of a larger crime spree, Hyde contends. He says DPS head Steve McCraw was trying to "blame the Mexican" when he named Arredondo as incident commander on May 27.

"Chief Arredondo hopes at least those who are willing to listen, understand that he is, and has been, from the time McCraw unfairly singled him out, being forced into the role of the “fall guy”, “the sacrificial lamb”, whichever term preferred; and, this once again demonstrates that no good deed goes unpunished," Hyde writes.

Hyde details eight scenarios where, he contends, law enforcement's response might have been better executed. Each 'what-if' spreads blame to other authorities, including the school district. 

"If the district provided ballistic shields capable of stopping a high velocity bullet, it could have been different," Hyde writes. "If the district erected six-foot fences around the school leaving only one entrance/exit, it could have been different."

In referencing specific statutes, the statement hints at legal action against the school district. Hyde says the district never provided Arredondo with evidence against the chief, never included Arredondo in any internal investigation, and limited potential witness testimony that might've supported Arredondo's case. 

University of Texas Law school director of advocacy Mike Golden analyzed the letter for KENS 5. 

"You have a right to a fair process," Golden said. "You don't have the right to an outcome."

Generally, Golden says government agencies are required to ensure the person they're taking action against understands the charges against them. He says the law rarely specifies how internal investigations must be conducted as long as some inquiry is carried out. 

"Given that (Hyde) wrote a 17-page response and shared it with the media, I think there's no doubt he understood what the complaints against him were," Golden said. 

Arredondo could sue in either state or federal court, Golden says. But he added that a judge would remember the school district twice delayed its termination hearing to accommodate Arredondo, and he refused to appear.

"When you choose not to participate, even if you have legitimate reasons not to participate, that makes it very hard to pursue a valuable claim," Golden said. "Even if he had participated, which he chose not to, was it going to make a difference?"

Golden notes that Arredondo might also want to avoid making public statements about his response on May 24, knowing he's likely to be named in future lawsuits. 

"(The letter) reads to me like it's more of a PR approach than it is a legal approach," Golden said. 

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