The embattled police chief of the Texas school district where 19 children and two teachers were killed in a school shooting has been placed on administrative leave, the superintendent announced.
Pete Arredondo, the police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, has been criticized for his handling of the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24 that killed 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers, and the decision to delay police entry into the classrooms where the gunman carried out the attack. Arredondo served as the incident commander on the scene of the shooting.
The leave will take effect immediately, the school district said in a statement Wednesday. Lt. Mike Hernandez will assume the duties of the Chief of Police, said Dr. Hal Harrell, superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
“From the beginning of this horrible event, I shared that the district would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” Harrell said. “Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies. Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date.”
Arredondo was the lone witness at the hearing on the shooting held during an executive session by the Texas state House of Representatives on Tuesday. Later that night, the Uvalde City Council unanimously denied Arredondo’s request for a leave of absence from future meetings. Arredondo had been sworn in as a city council member at the end of May.
During a state Senate hearing Tuesday on school safety, police training and social media in the wake of the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw read aloud from a transcript of police radio communications, revealing that nearly an hour after the gunman entered the school, an officer told the police chief, “People are going to ask why we’re taking so long.”
“We’re trying to preserve life,” Arredondo replied, per the transcript.
Parents and community members called for Arredondo’s resignation on Monday, with several arguing that law enforcement should be held partly accountable for the tragedy due to what was described as inadequate decision-making.
Earlier this month, Arredondo told The Texas Tribune he did not consider himself the commanding officer on the scene on the day of the shooting and that no one told him about the 911 calls that came in during the 77 minutes before the gunman was taken down.
“We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced,” he said. “Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
State investigators, according to a preliminary assessment, believe the decision to delay police entry into the classroom was made in order to allow time for protective gear to arrive on scene, an official briefed on a closed-door presentation by the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety told ABC News earlier this month.
However, waiting for protective gear contradicts active shooter protocols that have been adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country in the last 20 years.
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Bonnie Mclean contributed to this report.
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