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School police chief is indicted over 2022 Uvalde school shooting response

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Two years after 19 children and two teachers were killed at a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a grand jury there has indicted the former school police chief of Robb Elementary, Pete Arredondo. School Police Officer Adrian Gonzales has also been charged. The indictments center on the men's role in the botched response to the shooting, when 376 officers waited for more than an hour to confront the gunman. Texas Public Radio's Kayla Padilla has been reporting on Uvalde and joins us now. Good afternoon.

KAYLA PADILLA, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

DETROW: The grand jury deliberated for five months. What are the charges against these two law enforcement officers?

PADILLA: Well, currently, we only have access to the indictment of former Chief of Police Pete Arredondo. Former school Officer Adrian Gonzales has yet to turn himself in. They are both charged with abandoning and endangering a child on the day of the shooting, which is a felony here in Texas.

And Arredondo was supposed to be the incident commander, but the U.S. Department of Justice identified him as failing to do his assigned duties. So now he faces a 10-count indictment that includes failing to identify an active shooter situation, not enforcing an active shooter plan and mismanaging time and resources that further delayed the response. So he turned himself in on Thursday and posted the $10,000 bond.

DETROW: What has the reaction been from the families of the people who were shot and killed there?

PADILLA: So families of the victims have really been waiting for the details of this investigation. District Attorney Christina Mitchell hasn't really said much throughout the grand jury deliberations. Mitchell and her team have had access to the evidence that could answer one of the biggest questions coming out of the shooting, which is, would some of those kids and teachers be alive today if law enforcement had acted quicker? Now, some of these kids were still alive when police and EMS finally reached them, so parents still wonder, could they have survived if police had acted faster? These indictments are huge for the families and could lead them closer to the answers that they've been searching for.

DETROW: Yeah. What are they saying more broadly about police accountability here?

PADILLA: I think families of the victims are glad to finally see these changes. They'd been fighting for police accountability for two years, and they had criticized the district attorney for not being transparent. I just talked to parent Adam Martinez, whose son survived the Robb shooting. He thinks this indictment is a good start.

ADAM MARTINEZ: You know, at the end of the day, children died. Some of them still had heartbeats, but they were in there waiting after they'd already called. So I mean, anybody that was in charge, was trained and didn't follow the protocol, at a minimum, they need to be fired.

DETROW: These were the first criminal charges. Any sense that more could come?

PADILLA: Well, the families hope to see more indictments, but I think this has really reenergized their fight. I mean, just last month, the families filed a series of lawsuits. They're suing UPS and FedEx for shipping the weapon used by the gunman in the massacre. They're suing Facebook's Meta, the video game company that created the first-person shooter game Call Of Duty and Daniel Defense, the gun manufacturer that made the gunman's weapon. I think this is a huge and hopeful moment for them. I'm seeing parents posting photos of their children online and saying, this is who I'm fighting for.

DETROW: That's Texas Public Radio's Kayla Padilla. Thank you so much.

PADILLA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kayla Padilla
[Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio]
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