(NewsNation) — Embattled Uvalde school police Chief Pete Arredondo has been terminated by the Uvalde school board, which voted unanimously to fire him three months after the massacre at Robb Elementary School that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
The school board voted to terminate his contract after discussing the matter in a closed session that lasted more than an hour. No further remarks were given by the board other than to say they had decided to terminate his contract based on “good cause” and recommendation from the superintendent.
Those in attendance at the meeting lashed out at the school board for conducting the hearing on Arredondo in a closed session rather than in public.
The board may not have had a choice however, as Arredondo’s lawyer informed them shortly before the meeting began that he nor Arredondo would be in attendance.
Arredondo lawyer pens 17-page letter
Arredondo’s lawyer, George E. Hyde, sent a 17-page letter to the media Wednesday, starkly defending Arredondo’s actions the day of the shooting, while claiming the board would be violating his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“It is beyond any doubt that discharge from public employment under circumstances that put the employee’s reputation, honor and integrity at stake gives rise to a liberty interest under Fourteenth to a procedural opportunity to clear one’s name,” the letter read in part.
It was argued in the letter Arredondo was entitled by federal law to a “clear your name hearing,” during which he would be awarded the opportunity to defend himself publicly. The letter also blamed the board for meeting a time that did not work for all parties.
The letter also stated that Arredondo would not “feel safe” attending the school board meeting if he was not granted permission to carry a firearm with him.
Concluding the letter was a shockingly strong remark by Arredondo’s lawyer that he “would not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching.”
It is insisted throughout the letter that “no blame” should be put on Arredondo for what happened that day, and instead redirects all blame to the shooter himself.
Plainsville, Conn. police Chief Chris Vanghele, who was a first responder to the Sandy Hook massacre, said he has to stop reading the 17-page letter before he finished it because of how angry it made him to see Arredondo redirect blame. He was particularly shocked at the letter’s reference to the shooter.
“It’s sickening that he is going to try and put the blame elsewhere,” Vanghele said Wednesday on “NewsNation Prime.” “His attorney made it clear that ‘you can’t blame God and you can’t blame the shooter, so they’re looking for a scapegoat, and that’s Chief Arredondo.’ I’m sorry but I fail to believe how he can even think he is going to get his job back.”
Uvalde schools’ superintendent cited a lack of leadership as one of the causes for justifying Arredondo’s termination, yet Arredondo’s lawyer contends this is a faulty cause.
“Any allegation of lack of leadership is wholly misplaced,” the letter read. “The complaint that an officer should have rushed the door, believed to be locked, to open it up without a shield capable of stopping an AR-15 bullet, without breaching tools, are all reasonable expectations, when they are wholly unreasonable actions as it is tantamount to suicide.”
The letter goes on to claim that Arredondo would have sacrificed his own life to save children “if it came down to that.”
Racism was also alleged in the letter, as Arredondo’s lawyer argued Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, was partaking in “blame the Mexican!” when he criticized Arredondo’s inaction during a press conference.
Parents, students lash out at Arredondo, board
Anger from those in attendance at the school board meeting was directed at both the board itself and Arredondo. One woman stood up and proclaimed the board had a duty to terminate Arredondo so families of victims could heal. Another man accused the board of not caring “one squat” about the families of victims.
A young girl approached the microphone and asked why officers didn’t “protect my friends and teachers on May 24?”
“Turn in your badge and step down, you don’t deserve to wear one,” the child, identified as Caitlin Gonzalez, yelled into the microphone.
Arredondo, and dozens of other officers who responded to the shooting that day, have come under intense scrutiny for their slow response to the massacre and the 45 minutes officers stood in a hallway rather than breaching the classroom and taking down the shooter.
A damning investigative report criticized law enforcement for failing to take control of the situation, not breaching the classroom and wasting time looking for a key to a classroom door that was likely unlocked.
Surveillance footage from inside the school showed officers, armed heavily with tactical gear and assault rifles, standing in a hallway as shots rang out from inside the classroom and terrified students called 911 from inside.
The district has not taken as many security precautions as a lot of local families and leaders had hoped for. School starts again in two weeks, the Robb Elementary campus will no longer be used and a virtual academy is being offered to students who don’t want to return to in-person learning just yet.
Officials say they have installed additional security cameras, and upgraded locks and training. However, according to the district’s own progress reports, as of yesterday, no fencing had been built at six of the district’s eight campuses. Cameras had only been placed at the high school and new locks have been placed at only three of the eight campuses.