Saturday, April 1

Uvalde school chief who made call not to go after gunman is elected to city council

Uvalde school district Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, a 25-year law enforcement veteran, had earned praise from at least one supervisor as an “excellent” employee and officer.

Soon, Arredondo is moving on from being chief. He was elected May 7 to Uvalde’s City Council.

Arredondo got 126 votes, nearly 70 percent of the vote for District 3 of council, in the low-turnout municipal races, city election results show. Arredondo beat his nearest challenger in the four-person race, Beco Diaz, who garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote. Arredondo will replace current District 3 council member Rogelio M. Muñoz, city records show.

But Arredondo now stands at a crossroads as he faces increasing criticism from members of the community he grew up in over his agency’s response to one of the country’s worst mass shootings.

Arredondo, 50, was the incident commander at the chaotic scene Tuesday after a gunman entered open doors of Robb Elementary School, locked himself in two adjoining classrooms with students and their two teachers and sprayed them with gunfire from an assault-style rifle.

As commander, Arredondo was in charge of 19 officers who assembled in the hallway as Salvador Ramos was terrorizing and shooting the teachers and fourth-grade students. The flurry of gunfire subsided to sporadic shots, and Arredondo assumed the “active shooting” was over and decided not to break into the rooms until specialized SWAT officers showed up, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said Friday.

Vital minutes elapsed as Ramos was inside the school for up to an hour. The gunman was eventually killed by a Border Patrol tactical team, but not before fatally shooting 19 children and the two teachers and wounding 17 more people.

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Arredondo was not unfamiliar to active-shooter scenarios. He trained with at least one previous department in such situations.

Pete Arredondo is the UCISD chief of police.

Pete Arredondo is the UCISD chief of police.


Before taking the job at the Uvalde school district in early 2020, Arredondo was a police captain at Laredo’s United Independent School District for about three years.

United ISD Police Chief Ray Garner said that before Arredondo came to work for him, Arredondo had worked for Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar and was the No. 3 person at that office.

Cuellar and Arredono could not be reached for comment for this story.

Garner said Arredondo had a great work ethic and was eager to learn. Arredondo was responsible for the Laredo district’s north side schools.

“He was easy to talk to and he was real concerned about his kids in the schools,” Garner said. “He was an excellent officer down here.”

“Down here, we do a lot of training on active-shooter scenarios, and he was involved in those,” Garner said.“We train (officers) to go straight for the shooters and neutralize them.”

Arredondo was not married and did not have his own kids when he left United for the job in Uvalde.

Arredondo was born in Uvalde, a town of 16,000 that serves as a transition point for recreation along the Frio River, Garner State Park and the South Texas shale.

He went to the same district he now oversees and graduated from Uvalde High School in 1990. And he has family there.

“When I heard about the opening at UCISD, I didn’t even have to think twice about applying,” Arredondo told the Uvalde News-Leader in an interview in April 2020.

He recalled that many educators in the Uvalde district had made a good impact on his life.

“I made sure to mention them in my interview,” Arredondo told the News-Leader.

After high school, he went on to graduate from Southwest Texas Junior College, and Texas A&M Commerce with a degree in organizational management.

His first job after graduating from the SWTJC law enforcement academy in 1993 was as a 911 dispatcher for the Uvalde Police Department.

He served 16 years with the Uvalde PD and had multiple roles.

“I worked patrol, worked as detective, …and received assignment as assistant chief, ” Arredondo told the News-Leader.

When he joined Uvalde CISD in early 2020, the school district had doubled its security budget since 2017, rising from about $200,000 to about $450,000 for the current school year, according to NBC News, which cited the school district’s budget documents.

The beefed-up security was done, in part, to comply with state legislation passed in the wake of the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting near Houston in which eight students and two teachers were killed.

The Uvalde district adopted several security measures that included its own police force, threat assessment teams at each school, a threat reporting system, social media monitoring software, fences around schools and a requirement that teachers lock their classroom doors, NBC News reported.

Shortly after Arredondo arrived to his job in Uvalde, the pandemic hit and emptied the schools.

“We might not have students, but we have some employees working — if there is one working, we are working,” Arredondo said.

During the closure, he said officers still maintained a schedule, patrolled campuses, and made sure they are available to the staff while they are on campus. On food distribution days, the officers aided in traffic control.

“We want to make sure we are available wherever we are needed,” Arredondo said.

He was doing this with 4 to 5 officers — much smaller than the school police force in Laredo.

Laredo United has 62 campuses, more than 40,000 students and nearly 7,000 employees. The police department has 88 peace officers and 127 security guards, and a yearly budget of $10 million, Garner said.

Arredondo said assimilation into his new role benefited from the good communication within the department, and he wanted his small force to continue to be proactive, visible, and help educate.

“I’m a big advocate of education and training,” Arredondo said. “We can never have enough training.”

He added that he was looking forward to fostering positive relationships, being out in the community and working with his staff and students.

“Of course, my title is important, but having a good group is also important,” Arredondo said. “If not, you can surely fail.”

More on the Robb Elementary school shooting

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