Uvalde School Police Chief Focused On Evacuation Rather Than Confront Gunman: Report

The former school police chief in Uvalde, Texas, Pete Arredondo, told investigators he was primarily concerned with protecting those outside the classroom where a gunman had holed up with children during the massacre at Robb Elementary School last May, according to details from an interview a day after the attack.

CNN on Tuesday published details from a video interview Arredondo gave to investigators after the shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. Arredondo has drawn fierce criticism for treating the shooter as a “barricaded subject” rather than an active shooter, going against police training and protocol. It took officers more than an hour to confront the gunman, who was later killed by law enforcement. An investigation is looking into if any of those killed could have been saved had police intervened sooner.

“Once I realized that was going on, my first thought is that we need to vacate,” Arredondo told investigators a day after the shooting. “We have him contained ― and I know this is horrible and I know it’s [what] our training tells us to do but ― we have him contained, there’s probably going to be some deceased in there, but we don’t need any more from out here.”

Details from the interview are some of the most complete accounts of Arredondo’s response during the massacre. He has given few public accounts and defended himself in an interview with The Texas Tribune in June, saying he never considered himself the incident commander on site during the attack.

CNN added Tuesday that Arredondo had taken a required active shooter training three times, including the December before the attack. The course, CNN added, instructs officers to “isolate, distract and neutralize” attackers and that first responders will often be required “to place themselves in harm’s way and display uncommon acts of courage to save the innocent.”

Arredondo failed to adhere to that training, repeatedly requested more backup, including officers who had rifles rather than handguns. He also didn’t have access to his radios after dropping them and instead relied on his cellphone.

“Time’s on our side right now,” he told an officer that day, according to body-cam footage also obtained by CNN. “I know we probably have kids in there, but we’ve got to save the lives of the other ones.”

Arredondo was fired in August by the Uvalde, Texas, school board, which found “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making” in the police response to the shooting. The former police chief called his termination a “public lynching.”

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” an investigative report released in July found.

The Texas Rangers, a division of the state’s Department of Public Safety, is conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting, including if any victims could have survived if police had intervened sooner.

The district attorney for Uvalde said this week she doesn’t anticipate a report on the matter for months, according to The Texas Tribune.