UVALDE, Texas (Nexstar) — Former police chief of Uvalde CISD Pete Arredondo told investigators his priority was saving students and staff in other classrooms of Robb Elementary School, rather than stopping the gunman who had already entered a classroom, killing 19 students and two teachers.
Arredondo told investigators on May 25, a day after the massacre, that he made the decision after the gunman went inside two classrooms, according to an interview video obtained by CNN. The embattled officer said that the critical decision came after he saw children in other classrooms.
“Once I realized that was going on, my first thought is that we need to vacate,” Arredondo told Texas Department of Safety Public investigators. “We have him contained — and I know this is horrible and I know it’s what our training tells us to do — but, we have him contained, there’s probably going to be some deceased in there, but we don’t need any more from out here.”
In the interview video, Arredondo explains that he assumed the children inside those classrooms were already dead, based on the sounds of the gunfire, which was why he chose to pivot and evacuate other students and faculty.
That decision — in which Arredondo made the call to treat the gunman as a barricaded subject, and not an active shooter, would prove to be one of the major missteps on May 24 — as the children and teachers in Classrooms 111 and 112 were left alone with the gunman, with survivors and several victims left to bleed out for more than an hour.
At least three of the 21 victims — two children and one teacher — were still alive during the 88 minutes police waited to breach the classrooms. Children called 911 describing victims bleeding out in the classroom, pleading for help from law enforcement.
Arredondo’s decision did not follow active shooter protocols, which mandate responders “isolate, distract and neutralize” a gunman and also tells officers they usually will have to “place themselves in harm’s way and display uncommon acts of courage to save the innocent.”
According to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records, Arredondo completed three active shooter trainings — one in June 2019, a second in August 2020 and a third in December 2021.
New information about his actions that day also reveal Arredondo heard the gunman reload his weapon, and yet he still took no action to stop the gunman.
“I am assuming he reloaded, I know he did something with it. I did hear that at one time, I don’t know if there was a second,” Arredondo told investigators.
Was Arredondo in command on May 24?
Arredondo was fired by the school district in August 2022.
In the days following the mass shooting, DPS Director Steven McCraw said Arredondo was the designated incident commander on scene, and since took the share of the blame for failure that day. Through his attorney, the former school police chief has said he never considered himself incident commander on scene, and did not give any instruction that police shouldn’t attempt to breach the building.
Additionally, in a June interview with KXAN partner, The Texas Tribune, Arredondo told the Tribune: “I didn’t issue any orders … I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
Bodycam footage obtained by CNN refutes this.
“We’re going to clear out this building before we do any breach,” Arredondo told officers in the hallway at about 12:08 p.m. “As soon as they clear this room, I’m going to verify what’s been vacated, guys, before we do any kind of breaching.”
According to that footage, as well as his own admissions to investigators in the day after the shooting, Arredondo was giving directions the day of the tragedy.
In the video bodycam video obtained by CNN, he went on to say: “time’s on our side right now. I know we probably have kids in there, but we’ve got to save the lives of the other ones.”