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Uvalde school board reconvenes for second try at terminating police chief

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief Pete Arredondo speaks at a press conference in Uvalde.
Mikala Compton/VIA REUTERS
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USA TODAY NETWORK
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief Pete Arredondo speaks at a press conference in Uvalde.

The Uvalde school board is holding a termination hearing for the district’s police chief Wednesday evening, three months after the worst school shooting in Texas history.

The Uvalde school board is holding a termination hearing for the district’s police chief Wednesday evening, three months after the worst school shooting in Texas history.

Pete Arredondo’s termination hearing was originally scheduled to take place a month ago, but that hearing was canceled at the request of Arredondo’s attorney, who told the district the police chief was entitled to due process.

The families of the 21 victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary have been demanding Arredondo be fired since news first broke in late May that the police chief was in charge of the law enforcement response during the shooting. Officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman while children in the 4th grade classroom where he was holed up called 911.

Despite growing calls for action, Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell waited almost two months to recommend Arredondo’s termination.

At a heated school board forum in July, Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, even gave the board a deadline. Uziyah is one of the 19 children killed in the shooting.

“I'll tell you this. If he's not fired by noon tomorrow, then I want your resignation and every single one of you board members because y'all do not give a damn about our children or us,” Cross said. “Stand with us or against us, because we ain't going nowhere.”


During the forum, Harrell and board president Luis Fernandez said they were still reviewing the Texas House committee’s investigative report on the shooting released the day before. Two days later, the board scheduled a termination hearing for Arredondo on Harrell’s recommendation.

The Texas House committee report said there was no clear leadership during the shooting, but that the Uvalde school district’s active shooter plan called for the school district’s police chief to be in charge. Arredondo co-wrote the district’s active shooter plan.

In the first few weeks after the shooting Harrell refused to answer any questions about Arredondo’s employment status. Then, in late June, the superintendent placed Arredondo on administrative leave. At the time, Harrell said he wanted to wait for the investigations to be completed before deciding what to do, but he decided to place Arredondo on leave because it wasn’t clear when those investigations would be completed.

The district placed Arredondo on unpaid administrative leave July 22 when it canceled Arredondo’s original termination hearing.

Wednesday’s hearing will be the second time the Uvalde school board meets this week. On Monday, the board heard grievances filed by members of the public against the superintendent. The board took no action against the superintendent Monday. Instead, they voted to coordinate with the superintendent on an ongoing outside review of the district’s police department and directed Harrell to recommend organizations that could provide a review of district administrative practices. The board also asked Harrell to organize another open forum before the first day of school Sept. 6.

This story will be updated with the results of Wednesday’s hearing.

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Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Camille Phillips covers education for Texas Public Radio.