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A year after the Uvalde shootings, families still looking for answers

Questions still remain as to why armed police waited in corridor while children were trapped with gunman in classrooms

A year ago today, Uvalde was united in grief after one of the worst school shootings in US history which left 19 children dead along with two of their teachers.

Twelve months on, there is anger in the Texan city at how things have played out since then.

Parents and relatives of those who died at Robb Elementary School at the hands of former student Salvador Ramos (18) are deeply upset they still have not received answers about what happened on the day of the shootings and who, if anyone, will ultimately be held accountable. Others in the city are, reportedly, anxious for the city to move on from the tragedy.

In the background is the issue of guns; the rights to own weapons and what restrictions, if any, should authorities impose, remains in the background.


As the anniversary of the atrocity approaches this week, political, legal and policing authorities in Uvalde urged people outside the city to hold memorial events in their own localities. “It is essential to the healing process for our community and, most importantly, for our children, to be given this time to grieve together privately,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, Lives Robbed, a group representing some of the family members of those killed, is asking people to attend a candlelight vigil in Uvalde on Wednesday.

The city’s mayor, Don McLaughlin, told a press conference on Monday he had no “revealing answers” to the families’ questions. He said he realised this was very frustrating. “For that, I apologise.”

He said the city authorities would support the families with their event to commemorate those who lost their lives.

Families of the 21 victims and 17 others who were wounded want to know what happened on May 24th last year at Robb elementary school and why it took so long for the 376 police and law enforcement officers who rushed to the scene to take action against the killer.

Some parents are tortured by suspicion that their child may not have died immediately at the start of the attack but rather at some point during the hour or so that armed police waited in the corridor outside the classrooms without confronting the gunman.

The Uvalde district attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee, has blocked the release of information regarding the shootings pending the completion of her own investigation which will determine whether anyone will face criminal charges.

McLaughlin said he was as frustrated as everyone else with the lack of answers. He said although he was mayor, he had not received any briefings. He said the city of Uvalde was working with the district attorney “to get the results that we need”.

A harrowing documentary broadcast by CNN on Sunday showed families for the first time seeing police body camera video and other footage from the day of the shootings which the broadcaster had obtained.

The film aired calls to emergency services by terrified children locked in classrooms with the gunman which proved that police knew children were trapped with the killer for some time before they finally moved in to rescue them.

Last July, a committee of the House of Representatives in Texas said it was plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 minutes for rescue.

On the other hand, it suggested most of those who died were killed immediately “during the attacker’s initial barrage of gunfire”.

The report pointed to inadequate precautions taken in the school as well as systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making by those involved in responding to the attack. After the attack, the local school district fired its campus school police chief who was the commander at the scene on the day.

But, the families of the victims want to know who else will be held accountable and why things happened as they did.

“We’ve only been called once or twice to the DA’s office at the beginning and now, we haven’t been told nothing,” Kassandra Chavez, the mother of one of the victims, said on the CNN programme. “I mean, we’re having to find out later or through social media that something is going on.”

Others, however, in Uvalde would appear to want to move on.

The New York Times this week reported that at a recent library event, residents quietly asked the city manager when Uvalde could begin to put the shooting behind it. It said some wanted to start with dismantling a makeshift shrine to the victims in the central plaza in the city.

The mayor said on Monday there would be some changes to existing memorials but the city would work with the families. “We will still make facilities available and do whatever we can to help the families in any way we can.”

Similar to those affected by mass shooting events elsewhere, some of the Uvalde families have backed gun control measures. In recent month, some supported a proposed bill to raise the age limit for buying semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years old.

Their bid has not been easy, though. One on occasion, they had to wait for hours until after midnight to give evidence to politicians. Pro-gun rights lobbyists were in the same waiting room.

Another sign of the mood about guns came in the election for governor in Texas last year.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke campaigned largely on a platform of strengthening gun control laws. In the Uvalde area, O’Rourke was beaten decisively by 60 per cent to 38 per cent by the sitting governor, Greg Abbott, a champion of gun ownership.

As the anniversary of the shootings approaches, Robb elementary school now stands fenced off, waiting to be demolished. Children are being taught elsewhere or from home.

Some families have gone back to the scene.

On Monday, Kimberly Garcia, the mother of one of the victims, wrote on Twitter:

“Going into Robb today was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Bullet holes covered walls and floors. The word ‘clear’ written on each door except 111 and 112 (classrooms where the shootings took place), but nothing worse than seeing a huge poster congratulating them (the students) for graduating the 4th grade in just two days.”