As the top law enforcement officer in Uvalde, Texas, amid the fallout from the Robb Elementary School shooting, the public school district has hired its new police chief this weekend, with potential police layoffs.
Josh Gutierrez was named interim executive director of safety and security and chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated School District at Wednesday’s board meeting. Gutierrez’s appointment was approved unanimously, with one board member abstaining.
Gutierrez replaces Pete Arredondo, who was fired in August after criticism of his actions during the May 24 massacre left law enforcement officers waiting more than an hour before entering nearby classrooms where the gunman was hiding. 19 students and two teachers were killed in the attack.
Arredondo is seen on police body-worn cameras giving orders and receiving information during the response, but he said he never saw himself as the incident commander.
Within the city’s police department, Lt. Mariano Pargas, the acting police chief during the massacre, will soon face a decision by city officials about whether or not to stay on the force.
The city of Uvalde is calling a rare “special meeting” Saturday evening to determine Pargas’ future with the Uvalde Police Department, according to sources. Pargas is expected to be terminated at that meeting, unless he is fired by then, a Uvalde official told CNN.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin placed Pargas on administrative leave in July after videos from body cameras raised questions about whether any action was taken to take command. A recent CNN report showed that Pargas knew the students were alive and needed rescue during the shooting, but failed to organize help.
When CNN reached Pargas by phone Monday for comment, he said he could not do anything with the police department on the advice of his lawyers.
A preliminary report by a Texas House investigative committee in July vindicated multiple law enforcement agencies for the lack of action at the time, describing a “grossly inadequate approach” by authorities.
“We have no one to accuse of malice or malice,” the report said. “Instead, we found systemic failures and poor decision-making.”
The Uvalde School District suspended its police force in October following a CNN report showing the newly hired officer was one of the state troopers under investigation for that day’s actions.
Recommending Gutierrez to the interim post was one of the first major decisions made by retiring Superintendent Hal Harrell after taking over from Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson.
“This is our first step in rebuilding our school district police force,” Patterson said.