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Uvalde schools superintendent refuses to answer questions about police chief

Pete Arredondo, the embattled chief, has come under intense scrutiny over his handling of the Robb Elementary School shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.

UVALDE, Texas — The superintendent of the district where a gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school two weeks ago declined to reveal Thursday if his embattled police chief was still employed.

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell was asked if Chief Pete Arredondo was still a district employee and he refused to answer.

"That's a personnel question," Harrell told reporters. "I am not able to answer that in a public forum."

Arredondo has kept an incredibly low profile since Salvador Rolando Ramos, 18, broke into Robb Elementary School on May 24 and gunned down 19 children and two teachers.

The gunman was fatally shot almost an hour later by a Border Patrol tactical unit.

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Loved ones of the victims and critics of Arredondo, believed to be the incident commander, have blasted the chief for allegedly treating the slaughter as a barricade situation and telling officers under his control not to force a confrontation with the killer.

Decades ago, first-responding police had been urged to delay immediate confrontation with an active shooter and give way until a more heavily equipped and highly trained tactical unit arrives on the scene.

But that general policy changed following the 1999 killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, as police are now told to immediately engage the attacker.

State and federal authorities are reviewing the police response in Uvalde.

It was unclear Thursday if Arredondo can continue his off-campus political career, as he won election to the City Council on May 7.

He was sworn into office in a closed-door event on May 31, the same day as a regularly scheduled council meeting that was canceled in light of the mass shooting.

The council convened at City Hall on Tuesday but Arredondo, who represents District 3, was a no-show.

Harrell met with reporters for about 10 minutes on Thursday and updated Uvalde parents on a handful of other ongoing matters tied to the shooting:

  • No date has been set yet for graduation at Uvalde High School, where commencement had been set for May 27 before it was postponed due to the shooting.
  • The superintendent said counseling services will be available for students, staff and families "for the foreseeable future" and the district is consulting with outside police agencies with plans to increase security at all campuses.
  • He reiterated that the Robb Elementary School campus will not be used for instruction again: "We will not be going back to that campus in any form or fashion, there will be no school personnel on that campus as we move forward. As far as the future of that site, there are discussions of what that would look like as we move forward."

Morgan Chesky reported from Uvalde, and David K. Li from New York City.