A Uvalde school board meeting where officials were slated to consider the removal of School Police Chief Pete Arredondo over the bungled mass shooting response has been cancelled.
The meeting was scheduled to take place Saturday before it was called off on Friday.
“In conformity with due process requirements, and at the request of his attorney, the meeting to consider the termination of Chief Arredondo will be held at a later date which has yet to be determined,” the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said in a statement.
Chief Arredondo will remain on unpaid administrative leave until the meeting is ultimately held, the statement added.
Superintendent Hal Harrell announced his recommendation to fire Chief Arredondo on Wednesday amid mounting pressure from the Uvalde community and the families of victims of the 24 May massacre at Robb Elementary School, where almost 400 law enforcement officers failed to stop the gunman from murdering 21 innocent students and staff.
Chief Arredondo, who was in charge of the law enforcement response to the mass shooting, was informed on Tuesday about the now-cancelled meeting, a source told CNN.
It was initially speculated that he would resign before school board members convened for a vote on Saturday.
Chief Arredondo was initially placed on administrative leave back on 22 June as criticism of his handling of the massacre mounted and multiple investigations were launched.
To date, he is one of only two of the almost 400 officers on scene that day known to have been put on leave or disciplined over the botched law enforcement response that day.
Earlier this month, he also resigned from his position on the Uvalde City Council.
The move to oust him from the school district came two days after a highly emotional meeting on Monday night where victims’ families and community members demanded officials fire him – and almost two months after 19 students aged nine to 11 years old and two heroic teachers were shot and killed in the elementary school.
In the weeks after the 24 May massacre, Chief Arredondo has shouldered much of the blame for the failings of law enforcement.
As the on-site commander, the police chief failed to send law enforcement officers into the classroom to confront 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos.
Instead, a staggering 77 minutes passed from the time when the gunman entered Robb Elementary School and began killing innocent victims to the moment when an elite Border Parol unit finally breached the classroom and shot the perpetrator dead.
A damning report released on Sunday by the Texas House committee investigating the massacre found that it was “plausible” that the lengthy delay cost the lives of some of the victims bleeding out inside the room.
One teacher died of her injuries in an ambulance while three children died after reaching hospital.
“Given the information known about victims who survived through the time of the breach and who later died on the way to the hospital it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue,” the report stated.
Bodycam footage released on Sunday also revealed how the school police chief repeatedly tried to negotiate with the gunman through the classroom wall as he continued to shoot and kill innocent victims inside.
In the footage, Chief Arredondo is seen standing with other officers in the hallway making multiple attempts to engage Ramos.
At one moment, he shouts through the wall to Ramos that “this could be peaceful” – almost 40 minutes after the gunman first opened fire on his victims.
“Let me know if there’s any kids in there or anything,” he shouts.
The 18-year-old mass shooter did not once respond to Chief Arredondo.
Chief Arredondo has claimed he didn’t know he was in charge that day – a claim that was disputed in the Texas House committee report.
The probe revealed that the school police chief authored the district’s active shooting policy. In it, he wrote that he would be in charge in such an incident.
He also claimed that he was unable to breach the classrooms because of locked doors and spent time trying to locate keys.
It has since emerged that the doors were likely unlocked the entire time but that no officers had even tried to open them.
However, while much of the responsibility for the botched police response has been levelled at him, the committee report found that state and federal law enforcement also share the blame.
Chief Arredondo’s six-member police team was vastly outnumbered by personnel from other agencies and other officers could – and should – have stepped up and taken over as incident commander when it was clear he was not up to the task, the report found.
A staggering 376 law enforcement officers descended on Robb Elementary School to respond to what became the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Among them was 149 US Border Patrol, 91 state police, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s deputies and five Uvalde school police officers.
The remaining were federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers, US Marshals and police officers who responded from neighbouring counties.
“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report states.
“Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies — many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police — quickly arrived on the scene.”
These other officers “could have helped to address the unfolding chaos” but “no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post”, the report states.
“There was an overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement at the scene. For many, that was because they were given and relied upon inaccurate information. For others, they had enough information to know better,” the report states.