When the father says his daughter’s name, his voice breaks. Angel Garza speaks to CNN journalist Anderson Cooper about how he was called to work as a paramedic at his daughter’s elementary school.
There he found a girl covered in blood and wanted to help her. The girl said she was okay but had to watch her best friend get shot. When Angel asked Garza who the girlfriend was, the girl gave her 10-year-old daughter’s name: Amerie.
It’s stories like this that make the horror of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, ever more vivid. All the tragedy, the pain of so many parents, siblings, teachers – it’s almost unbearable.
And it just doesn’t stop. Two days after an 18-year-old went on a rampage that killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers before being shot himself by emergency services, Joe Garcia’s heart stopped. Garcia’s wife Irma, 48, was one of the teachers killed. As the 50-year-old’s family explained, he died “of a broken heart” after losing the love of his life. The couple, who were married for 24 years, according to Robb Elementary School’s website, have four children, aged between 12 and 23.
But the pain and sadness are mixed with more and more anger. Mainly because the deployment of the security forces on Tuesday is viewed increasingly critically.
After mounting criticism from parents and other witnesses, a Texas Department of Interior official admitted the shooter barricaded himself inside the elementary school for “about an hour” while police, who arrived shortly after the gunman, waited for reinforcements. The operations management argues that the police officers brought other students and teachers to safety during this time and tried to negotiate with the shooter.
It was wrong not to break into the classroom earlier where the gunman was holed up with students and teachers, said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Public Safety Agency on Friday. “It was the wrong decision. Period,” McCraw said. “There is no excuse for that.”
The agency chief said on Friday that 19 police officers were stationed in the hallway outside the classroom early on, but made no attempt to break into the room and stop the shooter. Instead, the decision was made at that moment to wait for special forces. This later turned out to be a misjudgment. It was not until 12:50 p.m. that special forces opened the door to the classroom with a key, as McCraw explained. The emergency services got this key from the caretaker.
When asked how many children had been shot while waiting and might otherwise have been saved, he said it was still being investigated. “We’re not here to defend what happened,” he said. “We’re here to present the facts.” The bottom line is the bitter realization: They had the 18-year-old elementary school student murdered for an hour – that too is almost unimaginable.
Little by little the course of events becomes clear. Accordingly, the perpetrator entered the school building unhindered through an unlocked door. At first it was said that he had shot his way free. He then barricaded himself in the classroom where he shot all 21 victims. He fired hundreds of shots with his two assault rifles.
The relatives are appalled by this fatal police tactic. “There were at least 40 police officers armed to the teeth but they didn’t do a damn thing until it was way too late,” Jacinto Cazares, whose daughter was killed, told ABC. “The situation could have been over quickly if they had had better tactical training.”
Two videos posted online showed desperate parents urging officials to storm the elementary school and trying to get to the building themselves, but were held back by police. Angeli Rose Gomez, whose children were at school, told The Wall Street Journal that she was taken away in handcuffs after she and others urged police to intervene.
It is still unclear why the 18-year-old, who first shot his grandmother in the face before storming the elementary school, wanted to commit mass murder. Former schoolmates reported that he was bullied because of a speech impediment but also bullied others. 18-year-old Jaime Cruz told the AFP news agency that Ramos himself was a “real bully” who dealt out properly. Ramos’ mother Adriana Reyes described her son as often angry and aggressive. But he wasn’t a “monster,” she told ABC News.
While the people of Uvalde try to come to terms with the unthinkable, the rest of the country debates how and if such acts can be prevented. Democrats have repeatedly tried to tighten gun laws, but have failed in the face of opposition from Republicans, who invoke the constitutional right to bear a gun.
The powerful weapons lobby NRA, which supports the Republican Party with a lot of money and massively resists stricter regulations, is also responsible for this. In his reaction on the day of the massacre, US President Joe Biden demanded that the country finally take up the NRA.
When Biden travels to the small Texas town of Uvalde on Sunday to mourn the 21 deaths with First Lady Jill Biden and the townspeople, the NRA has gathered in Houston, a few hours’ drive away, for its annual meeting. Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to give a speech on Friday afternoon.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled his appearance. Instead, he will attend a press conference in Uvalde, according to US media. He will address the participants of the NRA meeting via a video link. Celebrities across the country are also expressing their dismay at the worst school massacre in almost ten years. Actor Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde, has said gun violence is “an epidemic” that can be controlled. No matter where you stand politically, everyone knows “that we can do better,” he wrote in a statement. “Action must follow” so that no parent has to experience what the parents experienced in Uvalde and after other school shootings.
Such tragedies should not be accepted as the status quo. McConaughey had publicly considered running for governor of Texas for the past few years, but ultimately decided otherwise. Nevertheless, speculation continues as to whether he could switch to politics – but it is unclear in which party. At least the word “weapons laws” did not appear in his report.