UVALDE, Texas – Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo who has faced sharp rebuke over his inadequate response to the massacre at Robb Elementary School is speaking out for the first time. During a media interview, he is saying he never considered himself the incident commander and that he did not give orders telling responding officers to stand down.
Arredondo spoke to the Texas Tribune and is revealing for the first time what he says transpired on May 24 in the small town of Uvalde, where gunman Salvador Ramos murdered 19 students and two teachers.
“Not a single responding officer ever hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk to save the children,” Arredondo told the news outlet. “We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. 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.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said in late May that responding officers didn’t immediately engage the shooter because “the on-scene commander at the time” — whom he identified as Arredondo – “believed that it had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject.”
Nevertheless, Arredondo told the Texas Tribune this week that he never considered himself to be in that role as the shooting was unfolding.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo said, noting that he “called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door” to the classroom that Ramos was inside, Fox News reported.
It was unclear who Arredondo believed to be the incident commander if not him.
The group of U.S. Border Patrol agents who ultimately shot and killed Ramos were reportedly told through their earpieces at one point to not enter that classroom, according to the New York Times.
However, George Hyde, Arredondo’s attorney who accompanied him during the interview, told the Texas Tribune that his client didn’t say that, and if it was said, he isn’t sure who did.
“It’s not that someone said stand down,” said Hyde. “It was ‘Right now, we can’t get in until we get the tools. So we’re going to do what we can do to save lives.’ And what was that? It was to evacuate the students and the parents and the teachers out of the rooms.”
Arredondo also said in the interview that he tried dozens of keys to try to get through the door separating law enforcement personnel from Ramos, even without the protection of wearing body armor.
“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” he told the Texas Tribune, also inferring there were no breaching tools readily available.
The chief acknowledged not carrying a police radio, which is why he was unaware of the 911 calls coming from students and teachers begging for help inside the classrooms. His reason for not carrying one is simply unacceptable. He said he thought it would slow him down and that he wanted both hands free to hold his firearm, Fox reported.
According to the Texas Tribune, Arredondo said he’s received death threats since the mass shooting. He also said he didn’t speak out sooner since he didn’t want to compound the community’s grief.