According to a news release issued on Friday by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, the superintendent announced retirement plans and the entire police department has been suspended.
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Following the dismissal of a recently appointed district officer who was revealed to have been one of the first state troopers to arrive to the tragic school shooting in May, Uvalde school administrators on Friday suspended all operations of the district police department.
According to a news release issued on Friday by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, Ken Mueller and Lieutenant Miguel Hernandez have been placed on leave, and other police officers who work for the department will cover their roles in the district. According to the announcement, Mueller chose to retire. The reason Hernandez and Mueller were given a leave of absence was not stated in the release. A district representative did not promptly answer calls or emails.
Superintendent of the Uvalde school system Hal Harrell informed colleagues in a memo that he intended to retire hours after the announcement. Before being selected for his present post in November 2018, Harrell spent three decades in the district—from which he also graduated—serving as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and deputy superintendent. The school board’s agenda for its 6 p.m. meeting on Monday calls for trustees to discuss a transition plan and Harrell’s potential retirement options.
“This will be our first discussion and there are no defined timelines set at this point,” Harrell’s memo says. “UCISD has the most resilient and dedicated staff and I know you will continue to support and love our kids until and after my retirement date.”
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Ten days after demonstrators gathered outside the Uvalde CISD administrative building to call for the removal of police from campus property until investigations into the police department’s response to the shooting were finished, the district decided to suspend its police force.
However, the district suspended the department’s operations on Friday, citing “recent developments that have uncovered additional concerns with department operations.” The district said decisions regarding the agency’s future had been pending the findings of two investigations.
This week, the school board fired a newly hired district police officer when it came to light that she was among the first state troopers to reach Robb Elementary on May 24, the day of the bloodiest school shooting in Texas history, which resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers. The delayed police reaction has come under intense scrutiny and is still being looked into.
Crimson Elizondo was terminated by the school after CNN reported that the Department of Public Safety was looking into at least five current and former police for their response to the shooting.
After quitting her position with DPS, Elizondo was employed by the school district’s police force. During a campaign stop in New Braunfels on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott revealed to reporters that the school district had contacted DPS regarding Elizondo.
An allegation of “actions inconsistent with training and Department requirements” about Elizondo was still being looked into, according to a July 28 memo from DPS to Hernandez.
Hernandez acknowledged receipt by responding, “Got it, thank you so much, MRH,” according to an ABC News story from Thursday. Hernandez’s initials are “MRH.”
Whether Elizondo was employed prior to or following the district receiving the DPS memo is unknown.
Pete Arredondo, the former chief of the school district’s police department, was removed by the school system’s board, and Hernandez assumed control of the force. Pete Arredondo had initially taken much of the heat for the law enforcement agency’s slow response in apprehending the shooter.
Arredondo, one of the first cops on the scene of the shooting, told The Texas Tribune in an interview that he never saw himself as the incident commander, despite how state police had positioned him. The school district’s active-shooter response plan, co-authored by Arredondo, states the chief will “become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at the scene.”
Additionally, Arredondo had left his campus and police radios outside the school. He claimed that he thought the radios would have slowed him down. After entering the building, Arredondo requested keys and rescue equipment, assuming that the classrooms’ doors were locked and the gunman was inside there with the victims.
The classroom doors could not be closed from the inside, according to DPS Director Steve McCraw’s testimony before lawmakers, indicating they would have been open.
Arredondo resigned from the Uvalde City Council, where he had been elected a few weeks before to the incident, before being fired from the school district. After he was fired as the senior school official, city citizens persisted in calling for responsibility.
A total of 376 law enforcement personnel were dispatched to the Robb Elementary shooting, but none of them instantly assumed command of the situation.
Because of what a Texas House investigation committee called “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by practically everyone involved who was in a position of power, the gunman was not stopped, in part.
According to the Friday news release, the district requested additional troopers from DPS for campus and extracurricular events after suspending the police force.
As she entered her place of employment, Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza, one of the 19 students murdered in the shooting, received an email informing her of the suspension of the school district’s police force. Arrela informed her boss that she had to leave.
“Go go go go,” the boss told her.
She proceeded to speak with other victims’ families who had gathered to protest outside the school district’s administrative office. Arreola said she gave everyone a hug.
She said, “This was a huge step. “But there’s still a lot of, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done, and so we’re going to continue the fight because we’re not done.”