“Due to the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown moment when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to put Chief Arredondo on effective administrative leave on this date,” Harrell wrote in the media announcement. . .
Lt. Mike Hernandez is taking over as UCISD police chief, Harrell said.
The superintendent wrote that he intended to wait for an investigation to be completed before making personnel decisions.
“Today I am still without details of the investigations being carried out by various agencies,” he wrote.
Arredondo testified behind closed doors in Austin on Tuesday before a Texas House committee seeking answers to what happened on May 24 when 21 people were shot in the balance at an elementary school, but has not spoken publicly about his arrest. of decisions on the day of the shooting.
The school district’s announcement comes a day after Uvalde City Council, of which Arredondo is a new member, voted to deny his request for leave.
Harrell is not the only one to seem frustrated by the lack of information from researchers.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin on Tuesday criticized the Texas Department of Homeland Security (DPS) for its lack of transparency and accused its director, Colonel Steven McCraw, of intentionally minimizing its mistakes. agency during the weeks following the Robb Elementary School massacre.
“Colonel McCraw has continued, whether he is lying, leaking, cheating or falsifying information to keep his own soldiers and Rangers away from the response. Each briefing session sets aside the number of his own officers and Rangers who were in the scene that day, “McLaughlin told residents at a city council meeting Tuesday.
“Colonel McCraw has an agenda and is not presenting a full report on what happened and giving answers made about what happened to this community,” he added.
In addition, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat representing Uvalde County, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against DPS, arguing that the agency violated the Texas Public Information Act when its sun was ignored. request for information on the shooting.
“After the senseless tragedy, the people of Uvalde and Texas have demanded answers from their government. So far, they have come across lies, misrepresentations and changes of guilt,” the lawsuit states.
Criticism and the lawsuit come shortly after McCraw testified before a Texas Senate committee that law enforcement response was an “abject failure” and violated the usual protocol for stopping the shooter as soon as possible. possible.
The DPS director accused Arredondo, whom McCraw and others have identified as the commander at the scene, of ordering police to wait in a nearby hallway for unnecessary equipment and keys to a door that wasn’t even closed. .
“Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there were enough armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject,” McCraw said. “The only thing that prevented the dedicated officers ‘corridor from entering rooms 111 and 112 was the commander on the scene, who decided to put the officers’ lives before the children’s lives.”
Pointing the finger adds more tension to a tragedy that has become a case study in poor policing and worse communication. It has been almost a month since an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at the school. He remained inside the classrooms from 11:33 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., when police eventually broke down the door and killed him, according to a DPS timeline.
However, authorities have repeatedly changed their account of key events about what happened in the rooms and what the police did in response during those 77 minutes.
McLaughlin said repeated misrepresentations and shifting blame from Texas authorities were dividing the community and frustrating bereaved families.
“What matters to Uvalde is that these broken-hearted families and this grieving community receive a thorough investigation and an accurate report of what happened that day,” he said. “Small internal fights, click headlines and politically motivated scapegoats don’t help anyone.”
CNN has contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety, the district attorney’s office, the chair of the Texas House investigation committee and the San Antonio FBI office to learn more. comments.
The state senator’s lawsuit challenges the DPS’s secrecy
In his lawsuit filed Wednesday, Gutierrez challenged the DPS’s decisions to withhold information from the public, including police camera footage, 911 audio and ballistic reports.
“DPS has violated Texas Government Chapter 552 by failing to provide public documents that are supposed to be public within a reasonable time,” the lawsuit states.
In a section entitled “The Cover-Up,” the lawsuit states that DPS has used an exception to the law to keep records private.
“These government agencies have used the ‘current law enforcement exception’ in the Texas Open Records Act to prohibit access to information that could illuminate the response to the school shooting.” , states the lawsuit.
Gutierrez is asking the Travis County District Court to rule that DPS will immediately provide the documents in its application for records.
District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee issued a statement two weeks ago stating that the shooting was being investigated by the FBI and Texas Rangers and that “any publication of records of this incident at this time would interfere with the ongoing investigation and would prevent a thorough and complete investigation. “
However, Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, called for transparency in a statement Wednesday.
“It’s important to note that the Texas Public Information Act does not require law enforcement investigators to withhold information from the public about a crime,” Shannon said. “The law enforcement exception for release is discretionary. In fact, many Texas police and prosecutors routinely release investigative information to the public when they feel the need to do so, either to help catch a suspect. to seek more advice on a crime or to show positive police action. “
The mayor says he is frustrated by the lack of transparency
At the town hall meeting, McLaughlin noted that officers from at least eight law enforcement agencies were in the hallway outside the classrooms on the day of the shooting. McLaughlin said he does not want to run for office again and that “he is not covering up anyone,” and said all responding agencies should be held accountable.
He said leaking certain snippets of information over the past few weeks “continues to create chaos in our community and prevent the whole truth from coming out.”
He especially pointed to what he said was a false report that local police were not cooperating with investigators and expressed frustration at being left in the dark.
“I’m just as frustrated, maybe not as frustrated as families who have lost their loved ones, but I’m upset not being able to give you answers or not being able to get answers,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said he had to receive daily information from authorities since its inception, but none has been provided.
“The gloves have been removed. As we know, we will share it. We will not return any more,” he said.
McLaughlin has previously criticized the lack of transparency of investigators, saying at a town hall meeting on June 7: “I don’t blame anyone,” he said. “One day they told us something, and the next day the story changed. For a week you were told that a teacher opened the door with a stone, and at the end of the week, that story also disappeared. These are the mistakes I’m talking about, “he said.
The city council also criticized Arredondo’s absence from public view.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Andy Rose, Christina Maxouris, Amanda Musa, Rosalina Nieves, Amy Simonson, Travis Caldwell and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.