Uvalde CISD police Chief Pete Arredondo has been placed on administrative leave. Arredondo has been heavily criticized for law enforcement’s response to the Robb Elementary shooting in May. Credit: Evan L'Roy / For The Texas Tribune

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police Chief Pete Arredondo has been placed on administrative leave amid criticism of the law enforcement response to the worst school shooting in Texas history.

Uvalde CISD Superintendent Hal Harrell announced the move in a news release Wednesday, just more than four weeks after the shooting.

Arredondo has come under scrutiny for his response to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School, during which officers took over an hour to enter the room where the shooter killed 19 children and two teachers.

Anne Marie Espinoza, director of communications and marketing for the school district, would not confirm if the leave was paid or unpaid.

An attorney for Arredondo could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Arredondo was among one of the first law enforcement officers on the scene of the shooting perpetrated by an 18-year-old former Uvalde CISD student.

Since the shooting, law enforcement agencies and state officials have given conflicting accounts of the police response, which has been criticized because officers waited more than an hour to take down the shooter, who entered the school through an unlocked door.

Multiple law enforcement officials and experts have criticized the response, saying officers should have engaged the shooter much quicker — even if it put police lives at risk. Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told lawmakers Tuesday that police could have stopped the shooter three minutes after arriving were it not for the indecisiveness of the on-scene commander, who “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.”

State officials have said Arredondo was the incident commander at the scene, something the schools police chief has disputed.

In an exclusive interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo defended his actions. He said he did not consider himself in charge of the scene and that the doors separating the police from the shooter were locked and impossible to break in.

Law enforcement records reviewed by the Tribune cast doubt on that version of events, however. The records indicate that Arredondo gave orders at the scene. And there’s no video evidence that Arredondo attempted to open the classroom doors.

According to footage viewed by the Tribune, the shooter went inside a classroom without appearing to encounter a locked door.

Arredondo testified before lawmakers during a closed-door Texas House committee hearing Tuesday.

According to Wednesday’s news release, Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second-in-command of the UCISD Police Department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.

In the announcement, Harrell noted that he has said the school district “would wait until the investigation was complete before making personnel decisions,” but proceeded to place Arredondo on leave given the uncertainty of when the investigation will be complete.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy.

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William Melhado, The Texas Tribune

William Melhado is a Poynter-Koch fellow for 2022-23 and a breaking news reporter for The Texas Tribune.