A silver coffin with the body of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza inside was carried into Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde on Tuesday — marking the first of 21 funerals for those killed in last week’sat a Texas elementary school.
Maite Rodriguez is set to be laid to rest Tuesday night. Her family said she wanted to be a marine biologist.
“She didn’t deserve it. I just know that in that moment she was brave. She was telling people where to hide,” Maite’s cousin, Destiny Esquivel, said.
Nineteen of the victims, including 44-year-old teacher Eva Mireles, will be buried in specially designed caskets made and donated by a nearby Texas business. Mireles’ sister, Maggie, had to pick out the dress she’s to be buried in.
“That was the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life. Never did I think that I would be doing this for my sister,” she told CBS News.
Mireles, a CrossFit enthusiast and avid hiker, was killed trying to protect her students.
“I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is cry because I know that it’s real. I know that it’s not a dream,” Maggie said.
As the reality sets in, so does anger at local law enforcement. The community that initially questioned why police waited about 75 minutes before entering the school is now demanding answers.
The Uvalde school’s police force, including its Chief Pete Arredondo,just two months ago. The training states an officer’s first priority is to confront the attacker.
As the finger-pointing grows, so does the grievance. Residents continued paying their respects at a growing memorial, including Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, who grew up in Uvalde.
Local border patrol agents also laid a wreath after risking their lives to stop the rampage.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for the small city in order to “accelerate all available state and local resources to assist” the community during its time of need.
Police response remains very much in focus
Sunday that it would review the law enforcement response. Police have come under heavy criticism for taking well over an hour to kill Ramos inside the adjoining classrooms where he unleashed carnage.
Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help as a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said Arredondo believed the suspect was barricaded inside an adjoining classroom and that there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation raised new questions about whether lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, who was ultimately killed by US Border Patrol tactical officers.
Many locals have come to blame the well-liked, home-grown Arredondo for the excruciating delay in killing the shooter.
The director of state police said at a Friday news conference that Arredondo made the “wrong decision” on when to have officers move in. Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom.
Authorities have said Ramos legally purchased two guns not long before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, permitting him to buy the weapons under federal law.
Gun legislation efforts rekindled
A day after visiting Uvalde and pledging, “We will,” in response to people chanting, “Do something,” President Joe Biden on Monday expressed some optimism that there may be some bipartisan support to tighten restrictions on the kind of high-powered weapons used by the gunman.
“I think things have gotten so bad that everybody’s getting more rational, at least that’s my hope,” Biden told reporters before honoring the nation’s fallen in Memorial Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The Second Amendment was never absolute,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and buy a lot of weapons.”
A bipartisan group of senators talked over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun safety legislation. Encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep guns away from those with mental health issues, and addressing school security and mental health resources were on the table, said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading the effort.
The group willunder a 10-day deadline to strike a deal.