Friday, July 19, 2024

Former Uvalde Police Chief INDICTED Over Response to Robb Elementary Shooting

“The families of the victims deserve to know what happened. And they will know what happened...”

(Headline USA) The former Uvalde schools police chief was indicted over his role in the slow police response to the 2022 massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead, the local sheriff said Thursday.

Pete Arredondo was indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts of felony child endangerment/abandonment and briefly booked into the county jail before he was released on bond, Uvalde Sheriff Ruben Nolasco told the Associated Press in a text message Thursday night.

The Uvalde Leader-News and the San Antonio Express-News reported that former school officer Adrian Gonzales also was indicted on multiple similar charges. The Uvalde Leader-News reported that District Attorney Christina Mitchell confirmed the indictment.

Mitchell did not return phone and email messages from the Associated Press seeking comment. Several family members of victims of the shooting did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

The indictments 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. 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. It was unclear when Arredondo’s indictment would be publicly released.

Over two years ago, 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 families of the victims deserve to know what happened. And they will know what happened,” Governor Greg Abbott of Texas stated after reacting to the footage of Uvalde police officers failing to respond to the shooting, which he referred to as “shocking”

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 in 2022 that accused prosecutors of not being transparent and withholding records related to the shooting. Media outlets, including the AP, also 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 for 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 sought restrictions on Second Amendment rights. The residents of Uvalde County additionally overwhelmingly voted for Republican candidates in the elections following the shooting.

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

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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