Uvalde City Council denies Chief Arredondo leave of absence, mayor slams DPS director

Uvalde City Council denied denied Peter Arredondo, newly elected councilman and embattled school police chief, his requested leave of absence during a Tuesday meeting. It followed nearly an hour of input from residents and grieving family calling for his resignation.

City Council’s decision means he will be expected to appear at future city council meetings in front of the public, and also listen during public comment periods. 

District 3 Councilman Ernest “Chip” King said that he was only going to grant a short leave of absence so the public wouldn’t have to see him, but he decided otherwise after the public criticized Arredondo for his handling of the mass shooting at Uvalde CISD’s Robb Elementary School on May 24.

One of the people who spoke was Jasmine Casarez, the sister of Jackie Casarez and cousin to Annabell Rodriguez, who were both killed in the attack. She said her comments were directed to Arredondo, who she thought would be there on Tuesday after being sworn in as councilman during a private ceremony in May.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin stands with a walker as he prays during a vigil held in honor of the lives lost at Robb Elementary.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin stands with a walker as he prays during a vigil held in honor of the lives lost at Robb Elementary.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

“Arredondo said the swearing in was a private thing out of respect for the families, saying ‘the families are the focus right now,'” Casarez said at the meeting. “Or was it private because he knew the people that voted him in now want him out.” 

Arredondo led Uvalde CISD’s police department and city police as incident commander during the shooting that killed 19 people and two children.

The gunman was in the school for nearly an hour before police entered a classroom and killed him. Officers under Arredondo’s command waited in the hall outside the classroom for nearly the entirety of the shooting, with at least one officer detained when trying to move on the gunman, the San Antonio Express-News reported. 

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw testified before a Texas Senate Committee Tuesday morning, saying other calls made by Arredondo led to police response being an “abject failure.” 

After council members denied leave of absence, King then asked the public not to come to the meetings and “cause problems,” which angered community members attending Tuesday’s meeting. 

“Don’t insult us,” yelled one unidentified resident.

After residents expressed concern that Mayor Don McLaughlin didn’t have their best interest and protection in mind, he responded by saying city officials have been told by other authorities that they can’t say anything when it comes to the shooting and the investigation.

“Today that’s over with,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t owe any allegiance to anybody, any government authority, or any district attorney in this county anymore.” 

He went on to say the families deserve the truth and the city aims to be transparent. McLaughlin’s comments came just hours after his office released a statement refusing to release records or body cam footage from the incident by order of District Attorney Christina Busbee.

He read a different statement Tuesday evening providing his own account of what went on at the school shooting.

McLaughlin said there were no less than eight law enforcement agencies in the school hallway, including DPS, Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol, Uvalde County Constables, Uvalde Police Department, UCISD Police Department, and the Uvalde County district attorney’s investigator. 

He said the surveillance and body cam footage are currently being controlled by the district attorney, DPS and state legislators. McLaughlin says that someone has released bits and pieces of the footage, referring to multiple stories Tuesday morning showing police in the hallway had a ballistic shield and other equipment. 

The mayor went on to seemingly shift blame to DPS, saying McCraw changed information delivered at press conferences on May 26 and May 27. He also said DPS “leaked” a report that Uvalde police were not responding to investigation inquiries. McLaughlin claimed that was a lie. 

He also said McCraw has an agenda. McLaughlin claims petty infighting, click bait headlines, and politically motivated “scapegoating” were only dividing the community. 

“The gloves are off,” McLaughlin said. 

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