The Texas police chief who has faced intense scrutiny over his handling of the elementary school massacre in Uvalde offered his first extended comments on the shooting in a story published Thursday by The Texas Tribune, telling the outlet that officers never “hesitated, even for a moment, to put themselves at risk.”
Pete Arredondo, the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department and a recently elected City Council member, has been described by state authorities as the scene’s incident commander — the official who ordered officers to treat the gunman as a “barricaded subject” and not an active shooter.
Yet Arredondo told the outlet he considered himself a front-line responder — not the one managing the broader response.
“I didn’t issue any orders,” he told The Tribune. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”
NBC News has not independently confirmed Arredondo’s account. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The outlet reported that Arredondo, who has largely remained silent since the immediate aftermath of the shooting, has said little because he didn’t want to cause more grief or blame others.
Two teachers and 19 students, many of them fourth graders, were killed in the shooting May 24 at Robb Elementary School.
Minutes after the 18-year-old gunman arrived at the school, Arredondo raced inside without his radios, believing they would slow him down and leave him without both hands to quickly train his gun on the shooter, he told The Tribune.
The decision meant he remained out of contact with many other officers at the scene, and he said he was unaware of chilling 911 calls made by students inside the school.
“My mind was to get there as fast as possible, eliminate any threats, and protect the students and staff,” he said, according to The Tribune.
According to the outlet, once Arredondo determined he couldn’t enter the classroom with the gunman inside — steel jambs prevented him and other officers from kicking it open — he dialed police dispatch from his cellphone and asked for a tactical unit, snipers and an extraction tool.
At one point, Arredondo tried to talk to the gunman — there was no response — and at another, he rebuffed a fellow officer who offered to give him cover to flee the building because he wasn’t wearing body armor, The Tribune reported.
“It’s not that someone said stand down,” Arredondo’s lawyer, George Hyde, told The Tribune. “It was ‘Right now, we can’t get in until we get the tools. So we’re going to do what we can do to save lives.’ And what was that? It was to evacuate the students and the parents and the teachers out of the rooms.”
Several attempts to open the door with keys failed, and tools that could have helped break it down never arrived, The Tribune reported. Eventually a team of federal agents entered the classroom, ignoring an order from local police to wait. They fatally shot the gunman.
Hyde told The Tribune that if someone issued a directive barring entry, it wasn’t his client.
Federal and state investigations into the response are ongoing. Arredondo pushed back against comments from officials saying he hadn’t responded to follow-up requests for the state inquiry, saying he’d been in touch with the state Department of Public Safety “every day.”