June 29, 2022

Editor’s be aware: This tale accommodates specific language.

Just a locked school room door stood between Pete Arredondo and an opportunity to carry down the gunman. It used to be sturdily constructed with a metal jamb, unimaginable to kick in.

He sought after a key. One goddamn key and he may get via that door to the children and the academics. The killer used to be armed with an AR-15. Arredondo idea he may shoot the gunman himself or no less than draw fireplace whilst every other officer shot again. With out frame armor, he assumed he may die.

“The one factor that used to be necessary to me presently used to be to avoid wasting as many lecturers and kids as imaginable,” Arredondo stated.

The manager of police for the Uvalde faculty district spent greater than an hour within the hallway of Robb Basic College. He referred to as for tactical tools, a sniper and keys to get within, protecting again from the doorways for 40 mins to steer clear of frightening sprays of gunfire. When keys arrived, he attempted dozens of them, however one at a time they didn’t paintings.

“Each and every time I attempted a key I used to be simply praying,” Arredondo stated. In spite of everything, 77 mins after the bloodbath started, officials have been in a position to liberate the door and fatally shoot the gunman.

In his first prolonged feedback for the reason that Might 24 bloodbath, the deadliest faculty capturing in Texas historical past, Arredondo gave The Texas Tribune an account of what he did within the faculty all through the assault. He responded questions by the use of a telephone interview and in statements equipped via his legal professional, George E. Hyde.

Except for the Texas Division of Public Protection, which failed to reply to requests for remark for this text, Arredondo is the one different legislation enforcement respectable to publicly inform his account of the police reaction to the capturing.

Arredondo, 50, insists he took the stairs he idea would very best offer protection to lives at his place of birth faculty, one he had attended himself as a boy.

“My thoughts used to be to get there as speedy as imaginable, do away with any threats, and offer protection to the scholars and group of workers,” Arredondo stated. He famous that some 500 scholars from the varsity have been safely evacuated all through the disaster.

Arredondo’s choices — like the ones of different legislation enforcement businesses that spoke back to the bloodbath that left 21 lifeless — are below intense scrutiny as federal and state officers attempt to make a decision what went incorrect and what may well be discovered.

Whether or not the shortcoming of police to temporarily input the study room avoided the 21 sufferers — 19 scholars and two educators — from getting life-saving care isn’t recognized, and might by no means be. There may be proof, together with the truth that a trainer died whilst being transported to the health center, that implies taking down the shooter sooner may have made a distinction. However, lots of the sufferers most likely died in an instant. A pediatrician who attended to the sufferers described small our bodies “pulverized” and “decapitated.” Some kids have been identifiable most effective by means of their garments and sneakers.

Within the maelstrom of anguish, outrage and second-guessing that straight away adopted the second one deadliest faculty capturing in American historical past, the time Arredondo and different officials spent out of doors that door — greater than an hour — have turn out to be trademarks of failure.

As head of the six-member police pressure accountable for preserving Uvalde faculties secure, Arredondo has been singled out for far of the blame, in particular by means of state officers. They criticized him for failing to take keep watch over of the police reaction and stated he made the “incorrect determination” that not on time officials from coming into the study room.

Arredondo has confronted dying threats. Information crews have camped out of doors his house, forcing him to enter hiding. He is been referred to as cowardly and incompetent.

Neither accusation is correct or honest, he says.

“No longer a unmarried responding officer ever hesitated, even for a second, to position themselves in peril to avoid wasting the youngsters,” Arredondo stated. “We spoke back to the ideas that we had and needed to modify to no matter we confronted. Our goal used to be to avoid wasting as many lives as lets, and the extraction of the scholars from the lecture rooms by means of all that have been concerned stored over 500 of our Uvalde scholars and lecturers earlier than we won get right of entry to to the shooter and eradicated the risk.”

Arredondo’s explanations do not absolutely deal with all of the questions which have been raised. The Tribune spoke to seven legislation enforcement mavens about Arredondo’s description of the police reaction. All however one stated that critical lapses in judgment happened.

Maximum strikingly, they stated, by means of working into the varsity with out a key and no radios and failing to take fee of the placement, the executive seems to have contributed to a chaotic manner during which officials deployed irrelevant techniques, followed a defensive posture, didn’t coordinate their movements, and wasted valuable time as scholars and lecturers remained trapped in two school rooms with a gunman who endured to fireside his rifle.

Hyde, Arredondo’s legal professional, stated the ones criticisms do not mirror the realities police face when they are below fireplace and looking to save lives. Uvalde is a small working-class town of about 15,000 west of San Antonio. Its small band of college cops does not have the staffing, apparatus, coaching, or revel in with mass violence that greater towns may.

His shopper ran directly towards threat armed with 29 years of legislation enforcement revel in and a Glock 22 handgun. Without a frame armor and no moment ideas, the executive dedicated to forestall the shooter or die attempting.

77 mins

Certainly one of Arredondo’s maximum consequential choices used to be fast. Inside seconds of arriving on the northeast front of Robb Basic round 11:35 a.m., he left his police and campus radios out of doors the varsity.

To Arredondo, the selection used to be logical. An armed killer used to be unfastened at the campus of the basic faculty. Each moment mattered. He sought after each palms loose to carry his gun, in a position to attempt and fireplace temporarily and as it should be if he encountered the gunman.

Arredondo equipped the next account of the way the incident spread out in a telephone interview, in written solutions, and in explanations handed via his legal professional.

He stated he did not discuss out faster as a result of he did not need to compound the neighborhood’s grief or forged blame at others.

Considering he used to be the primary officer to reach and in need of to waste no time, Arredondo believed that sporting the radios would gradual him down. One had a whiplike antenna that will hit him as he ran. The opposite had a clip that Arredondo knew would reason it to fall off his tactical belt all through a long term.

Arredondo stated he knew from revel in that the radios didn’t paintings in some faculty structures.

However that call additionally supposed that for the remainder of the ordeal, he used to be now not in radio touch with the ratings of different officials from no less than 5 businesses that swarmed the scene.

Virtually straight away, Arredondo teamed up with a Uvalde police officer and started checking school rooms, searching for the gunman.

As they moved to the west facet of the campus, a trainer pointed them to the wing the gunman had entered. As Arredondo and the Uvalde police officer ran towards it, they heard a “nice deal of rounds” fired off within. Arredondo believes that used to be the instant the gunman first entered adjacent school rooms 111 and 112 and began firing at the kids with an AR-15 rifle.

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Arredondo and the Uvalde officer entered the construction’s south facet and noticed every other crew of Uvalde cops coming into from the north.

Arredondo checked to look if the door at the proper, room 111, would open. Any other officer attempted room 112. Each doorways have been locked.

Arredondo recalls the gunman fired a burst of photographs from within the study room, grazing the cops drawing near from the north. One of the bullets pierced the study room door, and others went via the study room wall and lodged within the wall adjoining to the hallway, the place there have been different school rooms. The officials at the north finish of the hallway retreated after being shot, however they were not critically injured and returned in a while after to take a look at to include the gunman.

For the reason that gunman used to be already within the locked school room, probably the most measures supposed to give protection to lecturers and scholars in mass capturing eventualities labored in opposition to police looking to achieve access.

Arredondo described the study room door as strengthened with a hefty metal jamb, designed to stay an attacker at the out of doors from forcing their approach in. However with the gunman within the room, that took away officials’ skill to straight away kick within the door and confront the shooter.

Arredondo believed the placement had modified from that of an energetic shooter, to a gunman who had barricaded himself in a school room with attainable different sufferers.

Texas Division of Public Protection officers and information shops have reported that the shooter fired his gun no less than two extra instances as police waited within the hallway out of doors the lecture rooms for greater than an hour. And DPS officers have stated dispatchers have been relaying details about 911 calls coming from kids and lecturers within the school rooms, begging the police for assist.

Arredondo stated he used to be now not conscious about the 911 calls as a result of he didn’t have his radio and no person within the hallway relayed that data to him. Arredondo and the opposite officials within the hallway took nice pains to stay quiet. Arredondo stated that they had no radio communications — and despite the fact that they might had radios, his legal professional stated, they might have became them off within the hallway to steer clear of freely giving their location. As an alternative, they handed data in whispers for worry of drawing every other spherical of gunfire if the shooter heard them.

Discovering no approach to go into the room, Arredondo referred to as police dispatch from his cellular phone and requested for a SWAT staff, snipers and extrication equipment, like a fireplace hook, to open the door.

Arredondo remained within the hallway for the remainder of the ordeal, looking ahead to a technique to get into the room, and ready to shoot the gunman if he attempted to go out the study room.

Arredondo assumed that another officer or respectable had taken keep watch over of the bigger reaction. He took at the function of a front-line responder.

He stated he by no means thought to be himself the scene’s incident commander and didn’t give any instruction that police must now not try to breach the construction. DPS officers have described Arredondo because the incident commander and stated Arredondo made the decision to face down and deal with the incident as a “barricaded suspect,” which halted the strive to go into the room and take down the shooter. “I did not factor any orders,” Arredondo stated. “I referred to as for help and requested for an extraction device to open the door.”

Officials within the hallway had few choices. In the future, Arredondo attempted to speak to the gunman throughout the partitions with the intention to identify a rapport, however the gunman didn’t reply.

With the gunman nonetheless firing sporadically, Arredondo discovered that youngsters and lecturers in adjoining rooms remained at risk if the gunman began capturing throughout the partitions.

“The ammunition used to be penetrating the partitions at that time,” Arredondo stated. “We have now were given him cornered, we are not able to get to him. You recognize you want to evacuate the ones school rooms whilst we found out a technique to get in.”

Lighting within the school rooms had additionally been became off, every other regimen lockdown measure that labored in opposition to the police. With little visibility into the study room, they have been not able to pinpoint the gunman’s location or to resolve whether or not the youngsters and lecturers have been alive.

Arredondo instructed officials to start out breaking home windows from out of doors different school rooms and evacuating the ones kids and lecturers. He sought after to steer clear of having scholars getting into the hallway, the place he feared an excessive amount of noise would draw in the gunman’s consideration.

Whilst different officials out of doors the varsity evacuated kids, Arredondo and the officials within the hallway held their place and waited for the equipment to open the study room and confront the gunman.

At one level, a Uvalde police officer spotted Arredondo used to be now not dressed in frame armor. Frightened for the executive’s protection, the Uvalde officer presented to hide for Arredondo whilst he ran out of the construction to get it.

“I’m going to be very frank. He stated, ‘Fuck you. I am not leaving this hallway,'” Hyde recounted. “He wasn’t going to go away with out the ones youngsters.”

With none technique to get into the study room, officials within the hallway waited desperately for a technique to safe access and did the most efficient they might to differently advance their purpose of saving lives.

“It isn’t that any individual stated stand down,” Hyde stated. “It used to be ‘Presently, we will be able to’t get in till we get the equipment. So we are going to do what we will be able to do to avoid wasting lives.’ And what used to be that? It used to be to evacuate the scholars and the fogeys and the academics out of the rooms.”

Gear that may had been helpful in breaking throughout the door by no means materialized, however Arredondo had additionally requested for keys that would open the door. In contrast to another faculty district police departments, Uvalde CISD officials do not lift grasp keys to the universities they talk over with. As an alternative, they request them from an to be had group of workers member when they are wanted.

Robb Basic didn’t have a contemporary gadget of locks and get right of entry to keep watch over. “You are speaking a few key ring that is were given to weigh 10 kilos,” Hyde stated.

Sooner or later, a janitor equipped six keys. Arredondo attempted every on a door adjoining to the room the place the gunman used to be, however it did not open.

Later, every other key ring with between 20 and 30 keys used to be dropped at Arredondo.

“I used to be praying one in all them used to be going to open up the door every time I attempted a key,” Arredondo stated in an interview.

None did.

Sooner or later, the officials at the north facet of the hallway referred to as Arredondo’s cellular phone and instructed him that they had gotten a key that would open the door.

The officials at the north facet of the hallway shaped a gaggle of combined legislation enforcement businesses, together with U.S. Border Patrol, to go into the study room and take down the shooter, Arredondo stated.

Ten days after the capturing, The New York Occasions reported {that a} crew of U.S. Border Patrol brokers disregarded a directive spoken into their earpieces now not to go into the room. The Occasions has since reported that Arredondo didn’t object when the staff entered the room.

Hyde stated if a directive delaying access used to be issued, it didn’t come from Arredondo, however the Occasions reported that any individual used to be issuing orders on the scene. Hyde stated he didn’t know who that particular person used to be. The Border Patrol declined to remark.

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At 12:50 p.m., because the officials entered the study room, Arredondo held his place close to the south school room door within the hallway, in case the gunman attempted to expire that door.

Ultimately, the shooter, Salvador Ramos, 18, used to be introduced down. A harrowing standoff abruptly was an effort to seek out the wounded and depend the lifeless.

As soon as the officials cleared the room, Border Patrol brokers educated to render emergency clinical provider assessed the wounded. Arredondo and different officials shaped a line to assist go the injured kids out of the hallway and to emergency hospital therapy.

Skilled research

A police officer deliberately ditching his radio whilst answering a decision? “I have by no means heard the rest like that during my existence,” stated Steve Ijames, a police techniques skilled and previous assistant police leader of Springfield, Missouri.

The discarded radio, the lacking key and the obvious loss of an incident commander are a few of questions raised by means of mavens concerning the reaction of Arredondo and the more than a few businesses concerned.

Officials are educated by no means to desert their radios, their number one conversation device all through an emergency, stated Ijames. That Arredondo did so the instant he arrived on scene is inexplicable, he stated.

Ijames added that it’s “unimaginable” that Arredondo’s officials didn’t have a plan to get right of entry to any room or construction on campus at any second, for the reason that the varsity district makes up the whole thing of the tiny pressure’s jurisdiction.

The mavens, which incorporated active-shooting researchers and retired legislation enforcement team of workers, homed in at the second officials entered the varsity and located the doorways to rooms 111 and 112 locked. 3 stated this second afforded Arredondo an opportunity to step again, regroup and paintings with different officials to plot a brand new technique.

“It takes having any individual who has the wherewithal to get a hold of a handy guide a rough, tactical plan and executing it,” stated former Seguin police Leader Terry Nichols. “It is probably not the most efficient plan, however a plan finished vigorously is best than the most efficient unexecuted plan on the planet.”

Nichols, who teaches categories on active-shooter responses, stated he understands the intuition for command group of workers to need to confront a gunman themselves. However he stated commanders will have to now not lose center of attention in their function in an emergency.

“We need to — as leaders, particularly as a first-rate of police — step again and make allowance our women and men to head do what they do, and use our coaching and revel in the place they are wanted, to command and keep watch over a chaotic state of affairs,” Nichols stated.

Energetic-shooter protocols evolved after the 1999 capturing at Columbine Prime College, the place a gradual police reaction not on time hospital therapy that can have stored a number of sufferers, teach police to confront shooters straight away, with out looking ahead to backup and with out regard for his or her private protection. An active-shooting coaching that Uvalde faculty district police attended in March wired those techniques, caution that responders most likely could be required to position themselves in hurt’s approach.

“The learning that cops have gained for greater than a decade mandates that once photographs are fired in an active-shooter state of affairs, officials or an officer must proceed via no matter hindrances they face to get to the shooter, length,” stated Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who co-wrote the bureau’s foundational analysis on mass shootings. “If that suggests they undergo partitions, or move across the again via home windows, or via an adjacent school room, they do this.”

Bruce Ure, a former Victoria police leader, stated drawing conclusions about police behavior all through the capturing is untimely for the reason that government have now not finished their investigations. He stated he believes Arredondo acted relatively given the instances he confronted.

Ure disagreed that Arredondo must have retreated right into a command function as soon as different officials arrived, since maximum active-shooter occasions ultimate mere mins. He argued that no quantity of ad-hoc making plans out of doors would have modified the end result of the bloodbath as soon as the shooter were given within the school rooms.

He stated making an attempt to breach home windows or open school room doorways by means of pressure have been unrealistic choices that will have uncovered police and kids to probably deadly gunfire with little probability of good fortune. Officials’ most effective selection, he stated, used to be to attend to discover a key, which he agreed must now not have taken goodbye.

Hyde stated making an attempt to go into via home windows would have “assured all of the kids within the rooms could be killed” together with a number of officials. He stated this “reckless and useless” motion, when police may now not see the place the shooter used to be, would have made officials simple goals to be picked off at will.

Ure, who as an attendee used to be wounded within the hand all through the 2017 Las Vegas live performance capturing that killed 60 other people, stated the post-Columbine knowledge that straight away confronting shooters is paramount. However he stated the scene within Robb Basic introduced a “absolute best hurricane” of an energetic shooter barricaded with hostages.

“There is no guide for this sort of situation,” Ure stated. “If other people want to be held accurately responsible, then so be it. However I feel the lynch-mob mentality presently is not serving any objective, and it is borderline reckless.”

Questions over command

The day after the capturing, Arredondo and different native officers stood at the back of Gov. Greg Abbott and DPS Director Steve McCraw as they held their first primary information convention to handle the slaughter.

Abbott lauded legislation enforcement businesses for his or her “wonderful braveness” and stated the movements of cops have been the explanation the capturing used to be “now not worse.” McCraw stated a faculty useful resource officer had “engaged” the shooter out of doors the construction however used to be not able to forestall him from coming into.

To Arredondo, that data didn’t ring true. Arredondo became to a DPS respectable, whom he declined to spot, and requested why state officers were given faulty data.

In a shocking reversal at a information convention day after today, the DPS regional director for the world, Victor Escalon, retracted McCraw’s preliminary declare and stated the gunman “used to be now not faced by means of anyone” earlier than coming into the varsity.

At a 3rd information convention the next afternoon, Abbott stated he used to be “furious” about being “misled” concerning the police reaction to the capturing. He stated his improper remarks have been simply a recitation of what officials had instructed him.

Hyde stated the incorrect data didn’t come from Arredondo, who had briefed state and police officers concerning the capturing earlier than the primary press convention. Abbott on Wednesday declined to spot who had misled him, announcing most effective that the unhealthy data had come from “public officers.”

McCraw additionally instructed journalists that Arredondo, whom he recognized by means of his place moderately than his identify, handled the gunman as a “barricaded suspect” moderately than an energetic shooter, which McCraw deemed a mistake. Within the information convention, McCraw referred to Arredondo because the capturing’s “incident commander.”

Hyde stated Arredondo didn’t factor any orders to different legislation enforcement businesses and had no wisdom that they thought to be him the incident commander.

The Nationwide Incident Control Machine, which guides all ranges of presidency on how to answer mass emergency occasions, says that the primary particular person on scene is the incident commander. That incident commander stays in that fee till they relinquish it or are incapacitated.

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Hyde stated the ones pointers however stated Arredondo’s preliminary reaction to the capturing used to be now not that of an incident commander, however of a primary responder.

“As soon as he was engaged, in detail concerned at the entrance line of this example, he’s a type of this is in the most efficient place to proceed to get to the bottom of the incident at the moment,” Hyde stated. “So whilst it is simple to spot him because the incident commander on account of that NIMS procedure, in practicality, you spot right here he used to be now not within the capability as a way to run this complete group.”

Without a radio and no technique to obtain up-to-date details about what used to be going down out of doors of the hallway, Hyde stated, every other one of the crucial native, state and federal businesses that arrived on the scene must have taken over command.

Nichols, the previous Seguin police leader, pushed aside the concept every other officer would seamlessly undertake the incident commander function just because Arredondo by no means did. He stated decisive commanders are particularly necessary when a couple of businesses reply to an incident and are undecided how one can paintings in combination.

“You realize the ability. You are the maximum in detail a professional about this,” Nichols stated of Arredondo. “Take command and set what your priorities want to be, presently.”

On Might 31, officers with DPS, which is investigating the Uvalde capturing, instructed information shops that Arredondo used to be now not cooperating with the company. The company’s investigative unit, the Texas Rangers, sought after to proceed speaking with the police leader, however he had now not spoke back to the company’s request for 2 days, DPS officers stated.

Hyde stated Arredondo participated in a couple of interviews with DPS within the days following the capturing, together with a legislation enforcement debriefing the day of the assault and a videotaped debriefing with DPS analysts and the FBI the day after.

He’d additionally briefed the governor and different state officers and had a couple of follow-up calls with DPS for its investigation.

However after McCraw stated at a press convention on Might 27 that Arredondo made the “incorrect determination,” the police leader “now not participated within the investigation to steer clear of media interference,” Hyde stated.

The Rangers had requested Arredondo to come back in for every other interview, however he instructed investigators he may now not do it at the day they requested as a result of he used to be overlaying shifts for his officials, Hyde stated.

“At no time did he be in contact his unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation,” Hyde stated. “His telephone used to be flooded with calls and messages from numbers he did not acknowledge, and it is imaginable he overlooked calls from DPS however nonetheless maintained day by day interplay by means of telephone with DPS aiding with logistics as asked.”

Hyde stated Arredondo is open to cooperating with the Rangers investigation however wish to see a transcript of his earlier feedback.

“That is an excellent factor to invite for earlier than he has to then talk about it once more as a result of, as time is going by means of, all of the data that he hears, it is arduous to stay directly,” Hyde stated.

“They cherished the ones youngsters”

When the gunman used to be lifeless, police had every other grim process: transferring the tiny our bodies of injured kids out of the room and getting them emergency hospital therapy once imaginable.

A line used to be shaped to softly however temporarily transfer them out. Each and every kid handed via Arredondo’s fingers.

Later that evening, Arredondo went to the Uvalde civic heart, the place households waited desperately for information that their family members had survived, or had at worst been taken to the health center for remedy.

For Arredondo, his legal professional stated, telling households that “no further youngsters have been popping out of the varsity alive used to be the hardest a part of his profession.”

The chaotic legislation enforcement reaction to the capturing by means of native, state and federal businesses is below investigation by means of the U.S. Division of Justice and the Texas Division of Public Protection. It’s the matter of an investigative committee of the Texas Legislature and would be the supply of months of scrutiny by means of public officers, survivors and the households of the deceased. Survivors and the households of sufferers have began contacting legal professionals for attainable felony motion.

Arredondo’s function will probably be central to all of the ones probes.

For now, he’s heading off the general public eye, having left his house quickly as a result of it’s below consistent watch by means of information journalists.

However he is additionally been not able to mourn along with his neighborhood.

Arredondo grew up in the neighborhood and attended Robb Basic as a boy. He began his profession on the Uvalde Police Division and spent 16 years there earlier than transferring to Laredo for paintings.

He returned to his place of birth in 2020 to go up the varsity district’s police division. He and his cops cherished high-fiving the schoolchildren on his visits to the universities, Hyde stated.

“It used to be the spotlight of his days,” Hyde stated. “They cherished the ones youngsters.”

Arredondo’s ties to the capturing also are familial. One of the most lecturers killed by means of the gunman, Irma Garcia, used to be married to Arredondo’s moment cousin, Joe Garcia. Garcia died all of sudden two days after his spouse’s dying.

Arredondo grew up with Joe Garcia and went to university with him. But if the funeral services and products began, Arredondo stated he opted in opposition to attending as a result of he did not need his presence to distract from the Garcias’ grieving family members.

His small police division may be struggling.

Eva Mireles, every other trainer killed by means of the gunman, used to be married to Uvalde Consolidated Impartial College District police officer Ruben Ruiz.

“They misplaced an individual that they believe circle of relatives,” Hyde stated.

To alleviate his grieving officials, Arredondo has picked up additional shifts on the police division.

And he is gained dying threats and unfavorable messages from other people he does now not know.

“The ones are individuals who simply do not know the entire tale which are making their assumptions on what they are listening to or studying. That is been tough,” he stated. “The police in Uvalde, we are like your circle of relatives, your brothers and sisters. We assist every different out at any value, and we are used to serving to out the neighborhood, length, as a result of that is what maximum public servants are about.”

Arredondo stated he stays happy with his reaction and that of his different officials that day. He believes they stored lives. He additionally believes that destiny introduced him again house for a explanation why.

“Nobody in my career desires to ever be in the rest like this,” Arredondo stated. “However being raised right here in Uvalde, I used to be proud to be right here when this took place. I believe like I got here again house for a explanation why, and this may perhaps be one of the crucial primary the reason why I got here again house. We are going to stay on protective our neighborhood at no matter value.”

Disclosure: The New York Occasions has been a monetary supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan information group this is funded partially by means of donations from individuals, foundations and company sponsors. Monetary supporters play no function within the Tribune’s journalism. Discover a entire listing of them right here.

This newsletter initially gave the impression in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/09/uvalde-chief-pete-arredondo-interview/.

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