UVALDE, Texas — Parents left Monday’s Uvalde school board meeting hollering, “Fire Pete” at trustees who took no public action against the district’s embattled police chief.
Members have held two board meetings since the May 24 tragedy at Robb Elementary. Attendees left each hearing visibly dissatisfied.
“Having Pete still employed, knowing he is incapable of decision-making that saves lives, is terrifying,” Brett Cross told trustees during a public comment period before the meeting moved behind closed-doors.
Cross helped raise his nephew, Uziyah Garcia, a Robb Elementary student who died in the shooting.
“We were failed by Pete Arredondo,” Cross said. “He failed our kids, teachers, parents and city. By keeping him on your staff, y’all are continuing to fail us.”
One man stood in the crowd holding a red sign with “Fire Pete Arredondo” printed in white, block letters.
Department of Public Safety head Steve McCraw identified Arredondo as commander in charge of law enforcement’s response to the shooting. Arredondo later told the Texas Tribune he never issued any orders or considered himself incident commander.
Children waited inside a classroom with the shooter for 77 minutes before law enforcement barged in and killed the gunman. As many as 19 law enforcement officers were in Robb Elementary’s hallways, as children inside the classroom begged 911 dispatchers for help.
According to investigators, Arredondo made the decision to wait more than an hour for backup instead of ordering officers at the scene to immediately confront the shooter who killed 19 students and two teachers.
A new report said police may have assumed that those classroom doors were locked and the shooter could not have locked the doors from the inside. Pete Arredondo had said previously that he went through a ring of keys provided by a janitor in order to try and gain entry. The new report said that he was instead trying other doors nearby in an attempt to locate a master key.
The classroom doors at Robb Elementary are designed to lock automatically when they are closed. The only way to open them is with a key from the outside, the report said.
Just before the meeting, KVUE and the Austin American Statesman reported that officers in the building had rifles and a ballistic shield about an hour before they engaged the gunman.
About 12 minutes before that, Arredondo reportedly called the Uvalde Police Department.
"It's an emergency right now," he said. "We have him in the room. He's got an AR-15. He's shot a lot. They need to be outside the building prepared because we don't have fire power right now. It's all pistols."
Experts say law enforcement officers are trained to neutralize the gunman as soon as possible in active shooter situations.
“I find it shameful that we had almost 100 officers on the scene and I had to leave work and save my own,” said Angeli Gomez, a mother who reportedly ran into the school to evacuate her own child.
Other parents asked trustees if school fences should be higher, whether the district should hire more officers, or if teachers should carry guns.
Lyliana Garcia described to the board her first Father’s Day as an orphan.
Her mother, teacher Irma Garcia, died in the shooting. Her father, Joe, died of a heart-attack two days after.
“We realized yesterday on Father’s Day that we will never our mom’s famous celebratory breakfast, for the table we once sat at with absolute joy and laughter is now quiet and holds two empty seats,” she said.
The board met behind closed doors to discuss allocation of some donated security equipment. It also voted to give UCISD superintendent Hal Harrell more hiring authority.
Trustees also took action “concerning approval of employments and assignments,” though the board did not disclose details related to this matter.