In the hours after University of the Incarnate Word police Officer Christopher Carter fatally shot Cameron Redus outside his off-campus apartment in Alamo Heights, he told police and university officials that he shot the UIW honors student after a struggle and as an unarmed Redus came charging at Carter with an upraised fist.
Carter, nearly twice Redus’ size, dubiously claimed he feared for his life.
Later, the Bexar County medical examiner concluded that Carter shot Redus once in the back and again, pointing his gun down at Redus, fired a shot that entered his eye socket and exited 9 inches lower through his neck. Either of those two shots among the six Carter fired and the five that struck Redus would have been fatal, the coroner ruled.
Carter’s version of events clearly didn’t add up, and his two previous years working for UIW included a series of policy violations and inappropriate actions that led to reprimands and a consensus among other campus police that Carter was incompetent. It was common knowledge, sources say, that Carter had stumbled through nine law enforcement and security jobs in the six or seven years preceding his hiring at UIW. In most of those jobs, he lasted only months. Yet even as he gained a reputation on campus as a misfit, Carter somehow stayed employed.
After the shooting, he was placed on administrative leave with pay for one year. UIW, then led by its longtime President Lou Agnese Jr., later allowed Carter to resign in good standing.
That enabled Carter to seek employment elsewhere as a police officer. San Antonio, Bexar County and other university police forces shunned him, but Carter eventually found part-time work as a police officer in the South Texas town of Orange Grove, lasting only months, and then as a police officer in Mathis, again lasting months before being fired. From there, he bounced over to the Helotes Police Department. For the last two years he has been unemployed.
Why did those small-town police forces hire such an apparent bad actor? For that matter, why did UIW make it possible for Carter to go elsewhere and find new opportunities to wear a badge and carry a gun?
Carter’s history of cycling in and out of law enforcement jobs is not unlike that of Uvalde school police Chief Pete Arredondo, who failed miserably when put to the test on May 24 when a teenage gunman entered Robb Elementary School and massacred 19 young children and two teachers. Arredondo and dozens of law enforcement officers gathered outside the classroom for more than 75 minutes before a few officers entered the classroom and took down the gunman.
Arredondo, ostensibly the on-site commander, failed to follow accepted police practices in such situations that call for swift engagement with the active shooter. Instead, he dithered, either out of cowardice, incompetence or the simple inability to lead and act under fire. Or all three.
In the days after the second worst school shooting in U.S. history, I took note in my readings of Arredondo’s background as a former police officer in the City of Uvalde who was hired into a senior position at the Webb County Sheriff’s Department in Laredo before leaving to work as an officer in Laredo’s public school district.
He left that job, too, returning to Uvalde to head up the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s small police force. The sequence of job changes had all the appearances of Arredondo bouncing from one law enforcement position to the next, and not in an upward trajectory.
A Thursday article in the San Antonio Express-News confirmed my suspicions. Reporters Brian Chasnoff and Joshua Eaton dug into Arredondo’s background and were given an on-the-record interview by Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar, who said he demoted Arredondo from assistant chief to commander because he was unable to get along with others in the department, including his supervisor.
“He was difficult to get along with — with his coworkers, especially upper staff,” Cuellar told the Express-News reporters. “The basic thing I want to say is he just didn’t fit the qualifications or the work that I set out for him.”
Cuellar told the reporters that Arredondo was not liked by fellow officers either in the department or at his previous place of employment in Uvalde.
That raises the question of why Arredondo was hired in Webb County in the first place if his track record in Uvalde was not good and why he was kept on after demonstrating unprofessional behavior.
Three years after his demotion, he resigned from the Webb County Sheriff’s Department and took a position with the Laredo United ISD. Three years later he left that job to take command of the small Uvalde school district police force.
It’s impossible to know if a more competent leader acting more decisively might have saved lives at Robb Elementary, but we can say Arredondo’s failure to act will haunt the families of the victims for the rest of their lives. He will never again enjoy the public’s trust.
Carter and Arredondo have one thing in common beyond their poor service records and clear incompetence as professional law enforcement officers. Both benefited from a system where officers are allowed to bounce from one police department to the next, with their new supervisors often failing to first conduct background checks.
As of today, both Carter and Arredondo remain eligible for employment as police officers in Texas.