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Uvalde Police Chief Announces Resignation

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Uvalde Police Chief Announces Resignation

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The police chief in Uvalde, Texas, who was out of town during the school shooting that left 21 people dead in May 2022, announced on Tuesday that he would step down. His resignation is the latest fallout from the turmoil in law enforcement over the length of time it took for officers to confront the gunman.

The chief, Daniel Rodriguez, did not give a reason for his decision to resign.

His department and others that responded that day have come under criticism for the more than 70 minutes it took officers to enter the classrooms where the gunman was holed up with teachers and students. His announcement comes less than a week after an investigation by the city concluded that Uvalde officers who were on the scene acted in good faith and did not violate department policy.

Mr. Rodriguez, who has been the police chief since 2018, was in Arizona at the time of the shooting, but was in communication with the officer he had left in charge, Lt. Mariano Pargas Jr. Mr. Pargas resigned in November 2022 after 18 years on the force, and has since been re-elected as a county commissioner.

“After deep contemplation and consideration, I believe it is time for me to embrace a new chapter in my career,” Mr. Rodriguez said Tuesday in a letter announcing his resignation.

The mayor of Uvalde, Cody Smith, said the chief’s resignation would be effective on April 6. He said Homer Delgado, an assistant chief of police, would serve as interim police chief while the city embarked on a search for a new leader.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our community, and we look forward to working together to identify the best candidate to serve the people of Uvalde,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

On May 24, 2022, a teenage gunman, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, climbed a low fence and entered Robb Elementary School through an unlocked door. He unleashed a barrage of bullets, killing 19 children and two teachers and injuring 17 other people.

More than 370 officers from local, state and federal agencies gathered at the scene, but did not attempt to confront the gunman for more than an hour.

The city convened a special meeting last week to reveal results of a two-year investigation into the shooting. During the meeting, an investigator hired by the city — Jesse Prado, a retired detective from Austin — said his findings showed that while law enforcement made many documented mistakes that day, Mr. Pargas and the more than 20 other officers from the city force who responded had acted in good faith and did not break department protocol.

The city’s findings, included in a 182-page report released on Thursday, are the third major investigation into the sluggish police response. Two previous inquiries, one by a state committee and the other by the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded that the police response was marked by a series of failures in leadership, wrong decision-making and lack of training.

Other inquiries are pending. The local district attorney, Christina Mitchell, has convened a grand jury that is hearing testimony to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against any officers who responded that day. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which also sent officers to the scene, has yet to release the results of its inquiry.

In the days after the shooting, much of the blame for the slow police response centered on Pete Arredondo, the chief of the small school-district police department, who was considered by many to have been the incident commander. He was fired by the school district shortly afterward. The district later dismantled its entire police force, which consisted of five officers, and has hired new officers.

The Texas Department of Public Safety ousted at least two of the seven officers who were under investigation for their role in the response, including Sgt. Juan Maldonado and a Texas Ranger, Christopher Ryan Kindell.

Sheriff Ruben Nolasco of Uvalde County and Emmanuel Zamora, the county constable in Uvalde, have been criticized for their roles in the police response, and are still looking to hold on to their posts, which are elected. Sheriff Nolasco is headed for a primary runoff in May; Mr. Zamora won the Republican primary for his post on Tuesday.

Relatives of the victims have been demanding full accountability for the police response. Jesse Rizo, whose niece Jackie Cazares died in the shooting, said he hoped to see other officers fired or otherwise punished.

“At the end of the day, from the top all the way down, you know, these people have to be held accountable,” he said. As for Chief Rodriguez, he said, “His departure was long overdue.”

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