For those who are left behind in Ulvade Texas, each day brings new levels of misery.
Their children and teachers were first shot to death in their classrooms. They were threatened with arrest if they tried to save their children from gunfire at Robb Elementary School.
In the aftermath, authorities gave whiplash-inducing statements about what happened, many of which proved to be wrong.
These mothers and fathers marched later on the streets in Uvalde. They testified before Congress in Washington, D.C. They testified before Congress in Washington, D.C. They demanded answers. That someone do something — anything, to prevent another deranged young man from walking into a school with a death wish and a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle.
An assassin fired over 100 rounds and shot nineteen fourth- and fifth-grade students. Two teachers tried to save them were also killed.
Nearly two months later, their relatives still have no concrete answers — just more horrible details and continued finger-pointing by officials and politicians, as reports repeatedly show that what unfolded that spring morning was a cacophony of chaos played by an orchestra of nearly 400 law enforcement members who rushed to the south Texas school, only to wait more than an hour before killing the gunman.
This week is undoubtedly the culmination of this deafening dissonance. The Texas House published damning results from an investigation into Sunday’s shooting. “egregious poor decision making”22 people were killed by 376 police officers from the federal, state and local levels.
The same day, another horrific Bodycam was released. It showed officers milling around campus hallways, checking their phones and using hand sanitizer as the shooter kept firing.
According to the state investigation, they waited for more than 70 minutes before killing one man with a single weapon.
“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,”After the bodycam footage was released, Vincent Salazar spoke to reporters. Layla, his 11-year old granddaughter, was murdered in her classroom. Layla had a suitcase filled with dreams. “She could have been anything,”Her father stated it.
“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,”Michael Brown, whose 9 year-old son was at school’s cafeteria the day before the shooting but survived, said, “They’re cowards,”He stated.
Jesus Rizo lost his 9-year-old niece Jackie. Jackie was a brown-eyed, long-haired child. Her plan for the future included a trip to Paris.
“She was very loving, very caring, very charismatic, always willing to give you a hug, always making sure that she gave you a hug before you left,”Digital was informed by Rizo this week. Jackie had “the most innocent eyes, the biggest heart that anyone could ask for,” her uncle said.
Rizo was at the public meetings. There, angry and inconsolable family members demand action. Rizo attended one of these meetings Monday. His family was furious and shouted at him “cowards”Board members of Uvalde School “shame on you!”
They called for Pete Arredondo to be fired as chief of school police. He was then placed on paid leave in June.
The state report concluded that Arredondo did not take command on May 24. First responders “lost critical momentum”You can treat the situation like a “barricaded subject”rather than an “active shooter,”According to the report. Arredondo “did not assume his pre-assigned responsibility of incident command,”It was added.
Rizo said Monday night to the school board that the man should leave.
“I’ve got news for you, the lawsuits are coming anyhow. Is there one more? Buy him out. Retire him. You have to make progress.” Rizo said.
Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old daughter, Uziyah Garcia, was killed, said the board should resign if it fails to terminate Arredondo’s employment.
“If he’s not fired by noon tomorrow, I want your resignation and every single one of you board members, because you all do not give a damn about our children or us,” Cross told Superintendent Hal Harrell and other officials on the dais Monday night.
To Jackie’s uncle, the final nail in Arredondo’s career coffin was watching him and other officers mill around inside the school while the gunman kept shooting.
“I witnessed a man washing his hands. A gentleman smiled at me. I saw a gentleman sitting against the wall. I saw confusion. I didn’t see any leadership.” Rizo told Digital. “I didn’t see anyone take the initiative. I don’t know what they were waiting for.” he said. It was “Absolute failure or catastrophic failure?”
The findings of the state investigation concurred with that assessment.
No one took control in the chaos despite 376 officers descending on the school, the report said. Of those responding, 149 were agents from the U.S. Border Patrol, 14 were from the Department of Homeland Security, and 91 were Texas Rangers from the state’s Department of Public Safety.
Also on the scene were 25 members of the Uvalde Police Department, 16 SWAT members of the San Antonio Police Department and 16 deputies from the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, the report said.
Sunday’s release of bodycam footage and the government report constitute the most comprehensive accounts thus far of one of the worst school massacres in American history.
Officers on the scene “incorrect information was given or relied upon.” the report said, and others “We had enough information to do better.”
“It was chaotic without anyone clearly in control or directing the law enforcement response.” the investigation noted.
Dustin Burrows, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives, said the report showed that officers “should have done more. Acted with urgency. Tried to open the doors, but he was too scared.”
Whether or not the classroom doors were locked remains a mystery, the report said.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Jackie Cazares’ older sister was beside herself as she addressed its members.
“What will you do to make sure that I don’t wait for 77 minutes and then start bleeding on the classroom floor?” asked 17-year-old Jazmin Cazares as her voice shook.
Superintendent Harrell apologized to the families, saying the board should have meet sooner with them in in an open forum to hear their concerns. He lies awake at night worrying how to make Uvalde schools safer, he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state report findings were “It is beyond troubling and serious concern.” The governor, who is running for re-election, added “there are critical changes needed as a result of the Texas House’s findings.”
A noted supporter of firearm rights, Abbott has not suggested altering gun laws as one of those changes.
The state police and the Uvalde Police Department have begun internal investigations of their performance following the critical report findings. School police chief Arredondo has not spoken publicly about the damning review of his actions, but he told a local newspaper last month that he did not consider himself the commanding officer of law enforcement officers on the scene.
On Wednesday the school board announced it would meet in special session Saturday to determine whether Arredondo should be fired.
Jesus Rizo still doesn’t understand what took so long — not just the delays in getting answers to who did what on May 24, but why 19 children and two teachers were left to die inside two classrooms as they bled and hid and called 911, their parents and their spouses, pleading for help.
“The thing that bothers me most is thinking about the children and teachers and how long they have endured without anyone touching, holding or touching them.” said Jackie Cazares’ uncle.
“It eats me up at nights.” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine the fear. The pain is not something I can imagine. It is impossible. It’s inhumane, inhumane, what they were put through.”
Nine-year-old AJ Martinez survived the massacre by hiding under backpacks, his face smeared with someone else’s blood. His mother has said he dreams of being able to rescue his friends, of being able to stop the shooter who fired a bullet into a little girl when she answered the calls of police officers, saying she needed help.
AJ has spoken in TV interviews, describing what he saw and heard while more than an hour ticked by. Rizo has seen that footage.
“He waits there and he awaits there and he continues to wait there.” Rizo said.
“I’d like for somebody to explain to AJ … an officer, the hand-sanitizing guy, Mr. Arredondo, any one of them — why don’t you explain to AJ why you left him in there?”