Pete Arredondo, police chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD), who has come under national scrutiny for his actions during the May 24 Rob Elementary School shootingwas fired on Wednesday night.
The UCISD school board voted unanimously to fire Arredondo exactly three months after the shooting. He met behind closed doors to discuss Arredondo’s future with the school district, but also heard from four residents of Uvalde in a town hall-style meeting, three of whom pleaded with the county to fire Arredondo.
The final testimony at Wednesday’s hearing was from a 10-year-old child Caitlin Gonzalez. “If law enforcement’s job is to protect and serve, why didn’t they protect and serve my friends and teachers on May 24?” she said. “I have messages for Pete Arredondo and all the law enforcement officers that were there that day: turn in your badge and stand down! You don’t deserve to wear one!”
George Hyde, Solicitor of Pete Arredondo, advocated for his client in a 17-page press statement shared with TIME Wednesday night, minutes before the board’s hearing began.
Hyde said Arredondo “did everything he knew how” on May 24, the day he was the shooter 19 students and two teachers were killed. He added that Arredondo used the waiting time in the hallway — more than 70 minutes — to evacuate the school to prevent further violence and victimization, and said Arredondo’s actions were consistent with active shooter training.
Read more: How Uvalde Schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo Went from Local Public Servant to National Pariah
The filing is the first time the public has heard from Arredondo or his attorney since the two was talking to Texas Tribune in early June.
He also criticized the way UCISD conducted its investigation into Arredondo’s actions and accused the district of violating the police chief’s due process rights. Hyde blames the death toll on May 24 on the school district’s lack of preparedness, along with the inaction of other officers at the scene who did not come to a different conclusion than Arredondo that day.
“Chief Arredondo has asked me to express in this statement his devoted loyalty to the law enforcement profession and law enforcement in his community,” Hyde said.
The document also cites Arredondo’s “respect for the officers who worked with him in the school district and those working for the Uvalde Police Department and every other officer and agency that responded to this incident because he knows that they all wanted to get a bad guy and save lives. Unfortunately, try as we might, we couldn’t save them all.”
Hyde continues: “Would the precinct prefer to have another shootout with police officers in the hallway, and in the course of that shootout, let’s say 20 or 30 kids in the hall get killed? And what if some of them were killed by a police officer? Chief Arredondo did the right thing.
“It is important to note that Chief Arredondo, along with several other officers in the hallway, were unaware of any occupants in the room with the shooter until he entered, the shooter was engaged and the officers stopped him,” Hyde adds in bold for emphasis.
Family members who lost loved ones in the massacre at Robb Elementary School arrive for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Board special meeting to consider the firing of Police Chief Pete Arredondo on August 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
Jordan Vonderhaar—Getty Images
Responsibility for the shooting in Uvalde
Arredondo, who has taken most of the blame for the May 24 shooting and has stayed out of the public eye since then, was placed on unpaid administrative leave on June 22. The decision to terminate him comes after a July 17 report by members of the Texas Legislature found that there were “no villains” in the investigation, but “systemic failures and extremely poor decision-making.”
On Wednesday night Daniel Myers, it is reported community pastor, took the podium to address the school board and blamed them for the May 24 tragedy. “If it was one of your kids, heads would be rolling right now. But since it isn’t, you don’t care!” he said. “You’re not going to sweep this under the rug … you all have a responsibility.”
Read more: It’s too late to pray. Uvalde’s faith leaders are called upon to help the community face the unimaginable
Hyde has publicly criticized Arredondo, saying that since the shooter was killed on May 24, a grieving public would naturally look for another person to blame. “Certainly and without a doubt, the only person responsible for this tragedy is the shooter himself,” Hyde said. “He’s the one person who could have saved everyone if he could have changed his mind and his plan to hurt the innocent and seek death by a policeman’s bullet.”
“Chief Arredondo respectfully asks that those who feel like they have lost everything, and those like him who have lost family members and friends in this tragedy, take a moment to pause to reflect and consider the actions they are taking , and to determine how, whatever the end to which one is striving, the attainment of that end will change nothing for the mourners except to increase their number.’
Hyde repeated a statement made in Tribune in June that Arredondo “was unable to serve as incident commander and did not attempt to assume that role as he was on the front lines of the incident.”
According to school shooting protocol, the first law enforcement officer to arrive on the scene is generally considered the incident commander. Many, including Texas Department of Public Safety Director Stephen McCraw, said Arredondo was the incident commander at the scene. Hyde, in his press release, said the “incident” began when the gunman shot his grandmother off campus and proceeded to crash his car near Robb Elementary.
Read more: There is a gap. Uvalde Shooting Victim Lexi Rubio’s Great-Grandfather Remembers Her 10 Years of Life
“The responsibilities of Incident Command … fell to several law enforcement agencies before and during the horrific events in the corridor that had nothing to do with Chief Arredondo’s area,” Hyde said. “Principal McCraw’s outlandish comments pointing the finger at Chief Arredondo after admitting the mistakes of his own officers were a smokescreen attempt to ‘blame the Mexican’!” And who was the most vulnerable? The school district police because of the size of the department and the generally bad reputation of the school district police in some communities.”
Ultimately, Hyde concluded, “Mr. Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests that the Board immediately reinstate him, with full pay and benefits.”
More must-see stories from TIME