July 18th, 2024

Former Uvalde police chief indicted over response to Robb Elementary shooting

By Jim Vertuno, The Associated Press on June 27, 2024.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Uvalde’s former school police chief has been booked and released from jail following his indictment on charges of child endangerment following a grand jury investigation into the police response during Robb Elementary School shooting in 2022, a sheriff said Thursday.

Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco said in a text message to The Associated Press that Pete Arredondo was booked on 10 counts of child endangerment and released.

The Uvalde Leader-News and the San Antonio Express-News reported that another former school officer, Adrian Gonzales, was also indicted by a grand jury on multiple counts of felony child endangerment and abandonment.

The indictments would make Arredondo, who was the on-site commander during the attack, and Gonzales the first officers to face criminal charges in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed during the attack in a fourth-grade classroom.

A scathing report by Texas lawmakers that examined the police response described Gonzales as one of the first officers to enter the building after the shooting began.

The indictments were kept under seal until the men were in custody, and both were expected to turn themselves in by Friday, the news outlets reported.

The indictments come more than two years after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire in a fourth grade classroom, where he remained for more than 70 minutes before officers confronted and killed him. In total, 376 law enforcement officers massed at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, some waiting in the hallway outside the classroom, even as the gunman could be heard firing an AR-15-style rifle inside.

The office of a former attorney for Arredondo said they did not know whether the former chief has new representation. The AP could not immediately find a phone number to reach Gonzales.

Arredondo lost his job three months after the shooting. Several officers involved were eventually fired, and separate investigations by the Department of Justice and state lawmakers faulted law enforcement with botching their response to the massacre.

Whether any officers would face criminal charges over their actions in Uvalde has been a question hanging over the city of 15,000 since the Texas Rangers completed their investigation and turned their findings over to prosecutors.

Mitchell’s office has also come under scrutiny. Uvalde city officials filed a lawsuit last year that accused prosecutors of not being transparent and withholding records related to the shooting. Media outlets, including the AP, have sued Uvalde officials for withholding records requested under public information laws.

But body camera footage, investigations by journalists and damning government reports have laid bare how over the course of over an hour, a mass of officers went in and out of the school with weapons drawn but did not go inside the classroom where the shooting was taking place. The hundreds of officers at the scene included state police, Uvalde police, school officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents.

In their July 2022 report, Texas lawmakers faulted law enforcement at every level with failing “to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety.” The Justice Department released its own report in January that detailed “cascading failures” by police in waiting far too long to confront the gunman, acting with “no urgency” in establishing a command post and communicating inaccurate information to grieving families.

Uvalde remains divided between residents who say they want to move past the tragedy and others who still want answers and accountability. During the first mayoral race since the shooting, locals voted in a man who had served as mayor more than a decade ago over a mother who led calls for tougher gun laws after her daughter was killed in the attack.

Robb Elementary School is now permanently closed. The city broke ground on a new school in October 2023.

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Read AP’s full coverage of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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