The Uvalde, Texas, school board voted unanimously Wednesday to fire school police chief Pete Arredondo, following the disastrous police response to a mass shooting on campus in May.
The decision was met with cheers from the assembled community members at a school board meeting on Wednesday evening.
On May 24, the chief helped oversee the chaotic police response to the campus shooting in which 21 people were killed, including 19 students, the second-worst school shooting in US history.
Arredondo, who state officials said was the incident commander during the response, is the first of potentially many officers fired for police lapses during the shooting.
Texas lawmakers said in a July report that the Uvalde massacre was exacerbated by a series of “systemic failures” and “cruel” decisions by police.
State officials have called Arredondo’s leadership in particular an “absorbing failure,” pointing to how a group of heavily armed officers waited more than an hour before entering a classroom and killing gunman Salvador Ramos.
The independent has contacted Arredondo for comment.
The police officer was not present at the school board meeting where the decision was taken.
In a statement earlier in the day, the attorney called the process a public “lynching” and an “illegal charade strategically designed to violate Chief Arredondo’s ability to speak freely to clear his name.”
The former chief also denied being in charge of the incident during the shooting, said he was concerned for his safety at the meeting, and blasted school officials for what he claimed was a violation of the formal process for terminating employment.
He blamed school officials for allegedly ignoring his earlier recommendations for security upgrades before the shooting, saying other law enforcement officials should have taken command because the shooting started off campus at the gunman’s home, where he wounded his grandmother.
“The Incident Command allegations are patently false and are intended to distract and shift blame,” Arredondo’s attorney said in his statement.
The independent has contacted the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District for comment.
Members of the local community have been calling for Arredondo’s resignation for months since the massacre.
“If law enforcement’s job is to protect and serve, why didn’t they protect and serve my friends?” a girl named Kaitlin Gonzalez told school board members during a public comment session at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Put in your badge and get down,” she added, referring to Mr Arredondo. “You don’t deserve to have one.”
The chief had been on unpaid administrative leave from the school police since June 22, and resigned from his position on the city council in early July. A decision by the council on Arredondo’s contract had been on the school board’s agenda since July, but was postponed twice at the request of the chief’s attorney.
He can appeal the dismissal.
State and federal officials continue to investigate the police response to the shooting.
This week, Uvalde families filed a $27 billion lawsuit against the Uvalde school district, several law enforcement agencies, a gun shop and a gunmaker linked to the shooting.