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After the Uvalde City Council voted against a leave of absence for embattled school district police chief Pete Arredondo on Tuesday evening, Mayor Don McLaughlin harshly criticized Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw for blaming local police in last month’s shooting at Robb Elementary School.
It came hours after McCraw told a special committee in the Texas senate that there was “a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject” within three minutes of the shooting, but Arredondo “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”
McLaughlin told Uvalde residents on Tuesday evening that since the shooting, McCraw has continued to “lie, leak, mislead, or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and rangers from the response.”
“There were no less than eight law enforcement agencies present in the hallway leading up to the breach of the door at Robb Elementary School,” McLaughlin said at a city council meeting.
“Every briefing, he leaves out the number of his own officers and rangers that were on scene that day. He leaves out that during this time, every other classroom in the building was safely evacuated by Uvalde peace officers with the assistance of Border Patrol.”
A spate of press briefings following the shooting left more questions than answers as officials routinely gave conflicting information and had to walk back previous statements.
Law enforcement released the most detailed timeline yet of the shooting on Tuesday, nearly one month after the gunman murdered 19 children and two adults at the school.
At least nine officers entered the school three minutes after the gunman on May 24 at 11:36 a.m. The first ballistic shield was inside the school at 11:52 a.m., while two other ballistic shields arrived shortly after noon.
McCraw has stated that Arredondo was the incident commander at the scene and decided to wait for more firepower, tactical gear, and keys to open the classroom door, even though the door was actually unlocked.
“I appear to be hypercritical of the on-scene commander, and I don’t mean to be, but the facts are the facts, mistakes were made. It should never have happened that way,” McCraw said Tuesday.
A Border Patrol tactical team eventually breached the classroom door and took out the gunman at 12:50 p.m., roughly 77 minutes after the suspect entered the school.
Arredondo, who was elected to the Uvalde City Council just weeks before the shooting, told the Texas Tribune that he “didn’t issue any orders” and didn’t consider himself the incident commander.
Uvalde residents ripped into Arredondo at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“Get him out of our faces. He does not deserve leave without pay,” one woman yelled. “He failed us.”
McLaughlin also confirmed Tuesday that Robb Elementary School will be demolished, saying “you could never ask a child to go back or a teacher to go back in that school, ever.”
Texas DPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening about the mayor’s comments.