Texas school police chief says he didn’t think he was in charge during shooting

Pete Arredondo says he intentionally left behind radios before entering school, as two more funerals are held for victims of the attack

The Texas school police chief criticized for his actions during one of the deadliest classroom shootings in US history said in his first extensive comments that he did not consider himself the person in charge as the massacre unfolded and assumed someone else was.

Pete Arredondo, the police chief of the Uvalde school district, also told the Texas Tribune in an interview published on Thursday that he intentionally left behind both his police and campus radios before entering Robb elementary school.

An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers behind a locked classroom door that the chief said was reinforced with a steel jamb and could not be kicked in.

Two more funerals were held in Uvalde on Friday as devastated residents of the small south Texas city turned out to say farewell to Eva Mireles, 44, described as a “warrior” of a teacher, and Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, whose parents gave heart-wrenching testimony to Congress earlier this week and demanded stricter gun control.

Mireles was described as an outstanding wife and mother, who enjoyed crossfit, hiking and spending time with her dog.

Her husband is a police officer for the Uvalde consolidated independent school district, according to a local report, of which Arradondo is the chief.

Rubio was described in her family’s obituary as a 10-year-old who loved the color yellow and was a huge fan of ice-cream, and enjoyed playing softball and basketball.

Meanwhile, poor radio communications is among the concerns raised about how police handled the 24 May shooting and why they didn’t confront the gunman for more than an hour, even as anguished parents outside the school urged officers to go in.

Separately, the New York Times reported on Thursday that documents show police waited for protective equipment as they delayed entering the campus, even as they became aware that some victims needed medical treatment.

Arredondo told the Tribune that from the hallway of the school he used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper and keys to get inside the classroom. He said he held back from the door for 40 minutes to avoid provoking gunfire and tried dozens of keys brought to him, but that, one by one, they failed to work.

“Each time I tried a key I was just praying,” he told the Tribune.

In the more than two weeks since the shooting, Arredondo’s actions have come under intensifying scrutiny from state officials and experts trained in mass shooting responses.

Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas department of public safety, has said the school police chief, whom he described as the incident commander, made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.

But Arredondo, who told the Tribune he believed that carrying radios would slow him down as he entered the school and that he knew that radios did not work in some school buildings, said he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building.

“I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”