(AUSTIN, Texas) — The embattled police chief who acted as incident commander in the Uvalde school massacre testified in front of Texas legislators for almost five hours as the grieving community calls for his resignation.
Pete Arredondo, the police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, was the lone witness at the hearing on the shooting held during an executive session by the Texas state House of Representatives on Tuesday. Arredondo has been criticized for his handling of the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24 that killed 19 third and fourth-graders and two teachers and the decision to delay police entry into the classrooms where the gunman carried out the attack.
Arredondo’s testimony, which took place behind closed doors, occured at the same time a Texas state Senate panel is conducting a hearing Tuesday on school safety, police training and social media in the wake of the shooting.
During that hearing, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw read aloud from a transcript of police radio communications, revealing that nearly an hour after the gunman entered the school, an officer told the police chief, “People are going to ask why we’re taking so long.”
“We’re trying to preserve life,” Arredondo replied, per the transcript.
Arredondo broke his silence on the criticism earlier this month, telling The Texas Tribune he did not consider himself the commanding officer on the scene that day. Arredondo also said that no one told him about the 911 calls that came in during the 77 minutes before the gunman was taken down.
The police chief told the newspaper that he and a Uvalde police officer began checking classrooms and searching for the suspected shooter when he arrived on the scene, saying “not a single responding office ever hesitated.”
“We responded to the information that we had and had to adjust to whatever we faced. Our objective was to save as many lives as we could, and the extraction of the students from the classrooms by all that were involved saved over 500 of our Uvalde students and teachers before we gained access to the shooter and eliminated the threat.”
Arredondo also told the local newspaper that he did not bring his radios in with him because he thought they would get in the way and he wanted to have his hands free. He also said that in the past the radios did not work in some school buildings.
State investigators, according to a preliminary assessment, believe the decision to delay police entry into the classroom was made in order to allow time for protective gear to arrive on scene, an official briefed on a closed-door presentation by the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety told ABC News earlier this month. The DPS information was based, in part, on transcripts from 911 calls, dispatch audio and body camera recordings, and the preliminary findings have not been made public.
However, waiting for protective gear contradicts active shooter protocols that have been adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country in the last 20 years.
During an emotional school board meeting on Monday, parents and community members called for Arredondo’s resignation. Several argued that law enforcement should be held partly accountable for the tragedy due to what was described as inadequate decision-making.
“Having Pete still employed, knowing he is incapable of decision-making that saves lives is terrifying,” said Brett Cross, the uncle of student Uziyah Garcia, who died in the shooting. “Innocence doesn’t hide, innocence doesn’t change its story, but innocence did die on May 24.”
Officials for the Uvalde School District have not responded to multiple questions from ABC News regarding Arredondo’s employment status.
ABC News’ Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.
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