Life Gets Only Worse for Uvalde School Massacre Relatives: 'You Do Not Give a Damn About Our Children or Us'
Anger simmers atop an emotional stew of pain, grief and irreparable loss for relatives of Texas school shooting victims.
Each day brings a fresh level of hell for those left behind in Ulvade, Texas.
First, their children were shot dead in their classrooms with their teachers. Screaming parents said they were threatened with arrest that awful day, lest they try to rescue their own children as gunfire thundered through Robb Elementary School.
In the aftermath, authorities gave whiplash-inducing statements about what happened, many of which proved to be wrong.
Those mothers and fathers later marched on the streets of Uvalde. They testified before Congress in Washington, D.C. They went to school board meetings, city council meetings, and gave interview after interview demanding something be done. That answers be given. 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.
Nineteen students in the fourth and fifth grades were shot over and over on May 24 by an assassin who fired more than 100 rounds. Two teachers who tried to saved them were shot dead as well.
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 arguably the crescendo of that deafening dissonance. On Sunday, the Texas House released damning findings from an investigation that determined "egregious poor decision making" by 376 state, federal and local cops occurred as 22 people were slaughtered.
Bodycam released the same day delivered another brutal blow. It showed officers milling around campus hallways, checking their phones and using hand sanitizer as the shooter kept firing.
They waited more than 70 minutes before killing a lone man carrying one weapon, according to the state investigation.
"It's a joke. They're a joke. They got no business wearing a badge. None of them do," Vincent Salazar told reporters after the bodycam was released. His 11-year-old granddaughter Layla, who had a suitcase full of dreams, was killed in her classroom. "She could have been anything," her father said.
"It’s disgusting. Disgusting," said Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the school's cafeteria on the day of the shooting, but survived. "They’re cowards," he said.
Jesus Rizo lost his 9-year-old niece Jackie. A brown-eyed child with long dark hair, Jackie had already made a plan for what she'd do after graduating high school: She was going to see 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," Rizo told Inside Edition Digital this week. Jackie had "the most innocent eyes, the biggest heart that anyone could ask for," her uncle said.
Rizo has been to the public meetings, where enraged and inconsolable relatives demand action. He attended one such gathering Monday, when incensed family members shouted "cowards" at Uvalde school board members and "shame on you!"
They shouted for the firing of school police chief Pete Arredondo, who was placed on paid leave in June.
Arredondo failed to take command on May 24, the state report concluded. First responders “lost critical momentum” by treating the situation as a "barricaded subject" scenario instead of an "active shooter," the report said. Arredondo “did not assume his pre-assigned responsibility of incident command,” it added.
The man should go, Rizo told the school board Monday night.
“I've got news for you, the lawsuits are coming anyhow. What's one more? Buy him out. Retire him. You've got to move forward some way, somehow," 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 saw a gentleman sanitizing his hands. I saw a gentleman smiling. I saw a gentleman leaning against the wall. I saw confusion. I saw no leadership," Rizo told Inside Edition Digital. "I didn't see anyone step up to the plate. I can't understand what they were waiting for," he said. It was "just absolute failure, 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 "were given and relied upon inaccurate information," the report said, and others "had enough information to know better."
"The scene was chaotic, without any person obviously in charge 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 the door handles, tried to go in through the windows, tried to distract him."
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 are you going to do to make sure I don't have to wait 77 minutes, bleeding out on my classroom floor, just like my little sister did?" 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 "beyond disturbing and raise serious concerns." 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.
"What bothers me the most is, I think about the kids and the teachers, and how long they may have suffered without anyone grabbing them, touching them, holding their hand," said Jackie Cazares' uncle.
"That eats me up at night," he said, shaking his head. "I cannot imagine, I cannot imagine the fear. I cannot imagine the pain. I cannot. 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 waits there, and he waits 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?"
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