Chief Pete Arredondo, of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, defended his response to the elementary school mass shooting, said he was not the incident commander, and explained why he left his two radios behind that day during his recent interview with The Texas Tribune.
“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff,” Arredondo says in the interview.
He said he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building. Texas Department of Public Safety officials have described Arredondo as the incident commander and said Arredondo made the call to stand down and treat the incident as a barricaded suspect, which halted the attempt to enter the room and take down the shooter.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo says. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
Lights in the classrooms had been turned off, a routine lockdown measure that worked against the police. With little visibility into the classroom, they were unable to pinpoint the gunman’s location or to determine whether the children and teachers were alive.
“It’s not that someone said stand down,” says George E. Hyde, an attorney representing Arredondo. “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.”
Some have questioned why the school chief ran into the building without his radios.
Thinking he was the first office arriving, Arredondo believed that carrying the radios would slow him down. One had a whiplike antenna that would hit him as he ran. The other had a clip that Arredondo knew would cause it to fall off his tactical belt during a long run. He also said he knew from experience that the radios did not work in some school buildings.