Embattled Uvalde School Chief Ghosts Shooting Probers, State Cops Say

UVALDE, Texas—State cops say Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo has not responded to a request for a second interview about last week’s mass-shooting massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary.But he did apparently find time on Tuesday to assume a new gig.Weeks before the shooting and the harsh…

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UVALDE, Texas—State cops say Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo has not responded to a request for a second interview about last week’s mass-shooting massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary.

But he did apparently find time on Tuesday to assume a new gig.

Weeks before the shooting and the harsh scrutiny that has shone on him since, Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde City Council. Early this week, Mayor Don McLaughlin indicated the ceremonial swearing-in of new members was being postponed, which might have been convenient for Arredondo given swirling frustration with how he handled the catastrophe.

But McLaughlin confirmed late Tuesday that new City Council members had, in fact, been sworn in, as CNN reported. The outlet cited the mayor as indicating Arredondo had swung by City Hall and taken the oath.

This even as the top law-enforcement agency in the state was pointing its finger at the embattled chief for going silent, days after singling him out for inaction in crucial minutes that might have cost lives.

“Uvalde PD and Uvalde CISD are still cooperating; however, the chief of police for CISD has yet to respond to the Rangers’ request for a follow-up interview that was made a couple of days ago,” a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

In another statement to the Statesman, a DPS spokesperson clarified that Arredondo had not responded to a request for comment in two days. He also clarified to another outlet that “plenty” of personnel from both the Uvalde Police Department and the school district “have done interviews and given statements to investigators.”

A spokesperson for the Uvalde Independent School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attempts to reach Arredondo and the Uvalde Police Department on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Arredondo has emerged as the most scrutinized law enforcement official who responded to the disaster wrought by Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old who killed 21 people after crashing his truck outside the school last Tuesday. Without naming him, state officials said Friday that as incident commander on the scene, Arredondo was the key player who treated the ongoing attack as one involving a “barricaded subject” rather than an active shooter that required immediate breach of the classrooms he had occupied.

“The cops change the story around here all the time,” said Ignacio Jimenez, 42, from Uvalde. “I am a victim of it myself.”

Jimenez worries that the truth will never be fully known because of the deception tactics that he says are so commonplace in Texas.

“They protect themselves to no end,” he said. “That ‘thin blue line’ around here is something that seriously needs to be dealt with because all sorts of people get hurt with it.”

His son, Jaime, was charged with stealing equipment from a local contractor and spent nine months in the Uvalde County jail. He was ultimately sentenced to serve 16 months in a Texas state jail after being encouraged to plead guilty by a public defender.

Only a few weeks before Jamie was due in court, the local contractor “found” the missing items that he was once sure were stolen. Ignacio Jimenez tried to convince the owner of the business to compel police to drop the charges. The owner said he would and even went and spoke with the prosecutor, who said it was “too late” to do anything about it and that he already had a signed plea agreement with Jamie. The prosecutor convinced the business owner that the items he had located must have been different items, Jimenez said, and assured him that Jaime was guilty.

“Because they are worried about making themselves look good, we pay for it,” Jimenez said. “I mean, my son couldn’t even find a job here and had to move into San Antonio. His life is ruined and he had to move away from everything he knew.”

It is this kind of deception that Jimenez worries will prevent the truth from ever coming about about what really happened at Robb Elementary School on May 24.

Despite a bevy of cops on scene, state law enforcement officials have said, and even as young kids continued to plead for help from 911 dispatchers, cops working under Arredondo held off on attempting to neutralize the threat. It was over an hour after police first got on the scene that Border Patrol agents breached the classroom and killed the shooter.

Among the harshest critics, however, was Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw—who told reporters during a Friday news conference that local police delaying entry into the classroom where 18-year-old Ramos was holed up was the “wrong decision.”

“From the benefit of hindsight, from where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision,” McCraw said. “It was the wrong decision, period, there’s no excuse for that.”

But Arredondo and local cops are not the only law enforcers under fire for the deadly mass shooting. A Texas DPS spokesperson previously confirmed to The Daily Beast that Ramos did not enter the school via a backdoor a teacher left propped open minutes earlier—despite McCraw indicating so at the same Friday press conference.

The spokesperson said that while the teacher had used a rock to keep the door open, she removed it when she ran back inside to get her phone and call 911 after seeing Ramos crash his truck on school grounds.

“She saw the wreck,” Don Flanery, the teacher’s lawyer, told the San Antonio Express-News on Tuesday. “She ran back inside to get her phone to report the accident. She came back out while on the phone with 911. The men at the funeral home yelled, ‘He has a gun!’ She saw him jump the fence, and he had a gun so she ran back inside.

The DPS spokesperson said that eventually the teacher ran back inside the school once again and closed the door behind her. The door, however, did not lock behind the teacher and allowed the entry point for the 18-year-old gunman to enter the school.

“She kicked the rock away when she went back in. She remembers pulling the door closed while telling 911 that he was shooting. She thought the door would lock because that door is always supposed to be locked,” Flanery added.

McCraw said Friday that in a span of just a few minutes after Ramos entered the building, the teenager unleashed “hundreds of rounds” into two of the classrooms adjoined by a jack-and-jill bathroom. During that time, several local cops arrived at the scene and were immediately met with gunfire—prompting their decision to call for backup.

It took several more minutes before a dozen local officers, who were crowded in the school hallway, finally entered the classrooms and engage with Ramos, despite hysterical pleas from parents gathered outside the school and children calling 911 asking for help.

“Oh yeah, they will lie and change their story over and over again until they get it just the way they want it,” said area resident Esparanza Hinojosa. “If you don’t believe that, then you are a fool.”

She said she worried that those who are sworn to protect and serve may never be able to be trusted again because they have a culture of protecting themselves.

“Look what is happening around the country and right here in our little town,” she said. “They are doing whatever they have to do in order to protect themselves. That is just not right. It is shameful.”

Hinojosa said somebody should be held accountable for the authorities’ inaction.

“If I see a car accident that just happened and I don’t stop to help, I am in the wrong and they can charge me with a crime,” she said. “They call that failing to stop and render aid. Well, what did those police officers do? It seems like they have much more of an obligation that I do.”

“Look, police live by one code of ethics and we are all expected to live by another,” Hinojosa continued. “They will lie, cheat, do whatever they have to do in order to make sure that they look as good as they possibly can.

“The death and destruction may have started with that Ramos boy,but the hurt and pain has been only worsened by the misinformation and lies that we are getting from law enforcement. How can we ever trust them again?”

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