The Uvalde City Council on Tuesday unanimously denied a leave of absence to council member Pete Arredondo, who is also police chief of the Texas school district where 19 students and two teachers were killed last month.
Arredondo was elected to the council on May 7. It was more than two weeks later, on May 24, when a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and barricaded himself. After more than an hour, police stormed the classroom he was in and killed him.
Arredondo did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting or a previous emergency session held shortly after the shooting, per the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network. The council voted unanimously to decline Arredondo’s leave of absence. If he misses the next two meetings, the council can remove him for abandoning his office.
Several Uvalde residents attended the meeting to oppose Arredondo’s leave of absence request. “We heard our citizens tonight, loud and clear,” Mayor Don McLaughlin said. “If he misses his three meetings, I’m sure Pete will go. … I’ll vote yes (to remove him).”
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Relatives of the shooting victims had pleaded with city leaders to fire Arredondo. “Please, please, we’re begging you, get this man out of our lives,” said Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza.
Also on Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, during a hearing in the Texas State Senate, blamed Arredondo for preventing officers from quickly confronting the gunman. Enough officers were on the scene three minutes after the gunman entered the building to have stopped him, DPS Director Steve McCraw said.
He called the police response an “abject failure” that ignored lessons from previous shootings and said Arredondo “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
McLaughlin criticized McCraw’s briefing saying he and other local officials have been asked to keep quiet about the shooting and the law enforcement response as multiple investigations continue.
“They can go to Austin and have public deals to talk about it … and not share a damn thing with this city or anybody in this community, and that’s wrong,” he said. That’s totally wrong.”
Arrendondo has said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge at the scene and assumed another official had taken control.
Contributing: Chuck Lindell and Niki Griswold of the Austin American-Stateman, The Associated Press.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.