Former Uvalde school police chief, officer indicted in 1st-ever criminal charges over failed response to 2022 mass shooting

Former Uvalde school police chief, officer indicted in 1st-ever criminal charges over failed response to 2022 mass shooting

A grand jury has indicted two former Uvalde school police officers in the botched law enforcement response to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead, two Texas state government sources with knowledge of the indictment told CNN Thursday.

Former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo and former school police officer Adrian Gonzales were named in the indictments, which represent the first criminal charges filed in the school massacre.

Arredondo surrendered himself to the custody of the Texas Rangers in Uvalde on Thursday, an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN. The former chief was booked on 10 counts of child endangerment and known criminal negligence, according to the indictment.

Arredondo was then released on bond, according to the Uvalde County Jail.

Gonzales was booked into the Uvalde County Jail early Friday afternoon, the Uvalde Leader-News reported, citing Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brandon McCutchen.

Gonzales was waiting to be processed, McCutchen told the paper. Earlier in the day, Gonzales’ attorney Nico LaHood told CNN in a statement the former school police officer was planning to self-surrender “so the judicial process can move forward.”

“It is very early on in our representation, so we will be working to acquire the evidence, the government is relying on, in this accusation,” LaHood said.

“Mr. Gonzales’ position is he did not violate school district policy or state law. The application of this statute, to law enforcement, under these circumstances is unprecedented in the state of Texas. It will take time to evaluate these allegations and the underlying facts,” LaHood continued.

CNN has reached out to the Uvalde County Jail for more information.

Mugshot for former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo. - Uvalde County Sheriff's Department
Mugshot for former Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo. - Uvalde County Sheriff's Department

The indictment against Gonzales was not immediately available from the Uvalde County District Court clerk’s office.

“Our administration has not been contacted by the District Attorney’s Office regarding any of our staff and we don’t have any comment at this time regarding the matter,” the Uvalde Police Department said in a statement on Facebook Thursday night.

The Uvalde County District Attorney’s office is not planning to file any more indictments in the botched response to the shooting, according to family members who have spoken to District Attorney Christina Mitchell.

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of 10-year-old victim Lexi Rubio, and Brett Cross, the guardian of 10-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia, told CNN they were informed by Mitchell there would be no further indictments coming out of the grand jury.

“I’m glad two people are indicted,” Mata-Rubio told CNN Friday. “It’s not justice until there are convictions. But I am also aware that there were others at fault that day, and it’s hard to accept that they will not face any consequences.”

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I feel like that’s not enough,” Cross told CNN.

Arredondo faces 10 felony charges of child endangerment for failing to recognize the incident as an active shooting and for failing to take proper action to intervene, the indictment says, and these behaviors placed each child in “imminent danger of bodily injury, death, physical impairment and mental impairment.”

Gonzales also faces felony charges of abandoning and endangering a child, Mitchell, the Uvalde district attorney, told the Uvalde Leader-News.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment to CNN Friday.

Family members of the victims have been meeting with the DA’s office to discuss the results of the months-long grand jury investigation, according to Brett Cross, the guardian of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, one of the fourth graders killed in the shooting rampage.

Jesse Rizo, the uncle of one of the students killed, Jacklyn Cazares, said he was pleasantly surprised to learn about two officers’ indictments, but had hoped more people were faced with criminal charges, he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Friday.

“It’s the beginning of something, right?” Rizo said. “But in order to bring closure, you would want all the officers that didn’t do their job that day, that failed to respond appropriately, you would want them to be held accountable in an equal way.”

Rizo hopes the DA will explain her intentions in public and indicate if any more indictments can be expected, he said.

“A lot of us are not exposed to the daily legalities of all these things, so we get a little confused with the technical things that go on,” Rizo said. “There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered as well.”

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District offered its condolences to the families of the victims Friday, saying it had no further information to add. “As with the rest of the Uvalde community, we have only just learned about the grand jury decision regarding two indictments being issued,” school district spokeswoman Anne Marie Espinoza said in a statement.

How the fallout unfolded

Earlier this year, the US Justice Department released a damning report that concluded law enforcement officers had many opportunities to reassess their flawed response to the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Bursts of gunfire, reports a teacher had been shot and then a desperate call from a student trapped with the gunman could – and should – all have prompted a drive to stop the bloodshed far sooner, said the report.

Instead, it took 77 minutes from when the 18-year-old shooter walked into Robb Elementary School until he was stopped. The carnage remains among the deadliest episodes in America’s ongoing scourge of campus shootings.

Critical failures in leadership among specific law enforcement officers who rushed to Robb Elementary are cited by the Justice Department, whose 575-page report was released nearly 20 months after the massacre.

Arredondo was fired in August 2022 for his role in the failed response. In May, his replacement, Joshua Gutierrez, submitted his resignation and his last day on the job was Wednesday, according to a school official’s statement.

Gonzales, who had been with school district police since July 2021 and previously with Uvalde police since 2009, told investigators he was at the high school when he heard a report of a vehicle accident by Robb Elementary and went to check. Gonzales, who said he was one of the first officers to arrive, heard shots and entered the south hallway along with Arredondo.

Gonzales said he tried to call for the SWAT team on his radio but could not transmit inside the school building so he left.

“Once I got out to get radio reception, I never went back in,” he told investigators.

While the gunman was unchallenged inside the school, Gonzales said he spent much of the time waiting with emergency medics outside the west door. He also found a set of keys and a plan of the school, he said, that had been requested by a Texas Ranger on scene.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez told CNN Thursday he believes the Texas Department of Public Safety also bears substantial responsibility for the failed law enforcement response and should have been included in the indictments.

“This is nothing but a whitewash of the most tragic mass shooting in our nation’s history – one of them at least – and certainly the worst officer-involved response to a mass shooting in our nation’s history. And all of it falls in the hands of the Department of Public Safety and (its director) Steve McCraw.”

During the fallout following the massacre, DPS Director Steven McCraw repeatedly called the law enforcement response to the shooting an “abject failure” and said each of its officers’ actions would be internally investigated and scrutinized by the district attorney.

“It was more than an abject failure and it’s a crime not to indict those officers,” Gutierrez said.

CNN has sought comment from the state’s Department of Public Safety.

Officers, school employees and shooting victims testified before grand jury

Multiple law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting, including members of the Texas Department of Public Safety, were ordered to testify before the grand jury, CNN previously reported.

School employees and victims of the shooting began their testimony before the grand jury in March – shortly after the Uvalde City Council released an independent report clearing all local officers of wrongdoing.

The independent investigator hired by the city reported his findings at a packed city council meeting, saying all the officers who responded to the school from the Uvalde Police Department acted in good faith and should be exonerated.

The findings sparked the fury of many victims’ parents and community members who have said for nearly two years that some should not be absolved. Less than a week after the release of the report, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez abruptly announced he would resign, effective April 6, saying it was time for “a new chapter” in his career.

Federal report describes failed police response

The Justice Department report dismissed the early official narrative of brave first responders saving lives that day and said “many victims shared that it added to their pain during a challenging time.”

The report found ample problems also emerged after the gunman was killed – from getting students away from the school and reunited with families to how bereaved parents were told their children were dead, the release of information about what happened, and the provision of therapy services.

The report describes the quick arrival of law enforcement officers who ran toward the sound of gunfire, then almost immediately stopped once they got near the classrooms where the gunman was killing fourth graders and educators.

That decision ran counter to widely established active shooter response protocol, which instructs law enforcement to move toward and eliminate any threat.

Instead, the intensity level dropped as responders began to treat the situation as a “barricaded suspect” operation that did not need immediate action, even as more officers arrived and the signals of ongoing danger multiplied.

That was the “single most critical tactical failure,” the team from the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services found.

In May, 19 families of the students and teachers killed or injured in the mass shooting said they settled a lawsuit with the city for $2 million and announced they are suing 92 officers with Texas Department of Public Safety, the school district and individual employees.

The city confirmed the settlement in a statement.

“It has been an unbearable two years,” Javier Cazares, the father of 9-year-old victim Jacklyn Cazares, said at a May news conference. “We all know who took our children’s lives, but there was an obvious systemic failure out there on May 24. The whole world saw that.”

CNN’s Rachel Clarke, Hannah Rabinowitz, Aaron Cooper, Dakin Andone and Alisha Ebrahimji also contributed to this report.

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