Police Chief Al Thomas speaks at a press conference Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Charlottesville, Va., police chief who received widespread criticism over his department’s handling of this summer’s white nationalist rally that left a counterprotester dead announced Monday that he will be retiring, effective immediately.

An announcement on the city’s website read: “Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas announced his retirement today after 27 years of law enforcement service. His retirement is effective immediately. A veteran of the United States Air Force, Thomas was appointed police chief in April of 2016 and began his service one month later on May 23.”

In the announcement, Thomas said: “Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the police chief for the city of Charlottesville. I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly. It truly has been an unparalleled privilege to work alongside such a dedicated and professional team of public servants. I wish them and the citizens of Charlottesville the very best.”

According to local news station WVIR NBC 29, a report this month called Thomas’ response to the escalating violence at the rally “slow-footed.” The violence led to the death of Heather Heyer when a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters after the rally.

The report also alleged that Thomas had deleted text messages and made officers fearful that they would face retaliation if they spoke to investigators looking into the incident.

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Thomas’ attorney said that the chief denies allegations that he deleted text messages.

City Manager Maurice Jones said: “Chief Thomas has served his country and three communities here in Virginia with distinction and honor. He is a man of integrity who has provided critical leadership for our department since his arrival. We wish him all the best in all his future endeavors.”

The city will begin the search for a new chief immediately. In the interim, Deputy Chief Gary Pleasants will lead the department. That announcement will be made formally within the next week.

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Read more at WVIR NBC 29.