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Investigators say the Uvalde school district police chief isn't talking to them

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last Thursday. Arredondo is being criticized over the police response to the mass shooting at the school.
Dario Lopez-Mills
/
AP
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, third from left, stands during a news conference outside Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last Thursday. Arredondo is being criticized over the police response to the mass shooting at the school.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it's having trouble setting up a follow-up conversation with Pete Arredondo, the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department, about the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Arredondo has disputed this characterization, telling a reporter that he has been in regular contact with DPS.

Arredondo and his department have been under scrutiny since last Tuesday's shooting, and the questions intensified on Friday, when DPS Director Steven McCraw told journalists that the incident commander — later confirmed to be Arredondo — made a critical error: treating the active shooter situation as one where a subject has barricaded themselves away from police.

Instead of immediately engaging with the active shooter inside the school, a large group of officers waited for more tactical gear to arrive. That approach allowed the gunman to operate inside the school for more than an hour, killing 19 children and two teachers. Another 17 people were wounded.

With the benefit of hindsight, McCraw said, "of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision, period. There's no excuse for that."

McCraw didn't mention Arredondo by name, but he was the top authority at the school on that tragic day.

A DPS spokesman told NPR late Tuesday that Arredondo "has yet to respond to the Rangers' request for a follow up interview that was made a couple of days ago."

The DPS spokesman said members of Uvalde's city police and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District "are still cooperating" with its investigation.

Arredondo spoke briefly to CNN outside of the district's office Wednesday morning, stating "Just so everybody knows, we've been in contact with DPS every day." He added, "I've been on the phone with them every day."

Arredondo declined to answer other questions. Shortly afterward, the school district released a statement saying it is working with law enforcement.

"Because the investigation is ongoing and information is evolving, we are going to reserve comment until all state and federal agencies have completed their review," Superintendent of Schools Hal Harrell said.

In addition to his police duties, Arredondo has a new job in local politics: He recently won election to Uvalde's city council, and on Tuesday, he was sworn in along with other new members, as Texas Public Radio reports.

The swearing-in ceremony was kept private — a controversial move that Mayor Don McLaughlin said reflected a desire to respect grieving families. But Sergio Martínez-Beltrán of the Texas Newsroom, a regional public radio collaboration, notes that the public ceremony was canceled Monday night — and he adds that keeping the ceremony private conflicts with the Open Meetings Act.

"At its core," the state's official handbook notes, "the Texas Open Meetings Act simply requires government entities to keep public business, well, open to the public."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.