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Uvalde’s fury mounts a month after school massacre as investigation reveals numerous failures


UVALDE, Texas – A month after a gunman stormed into a Texas elementary school and killed 21 people, grief has given way to anger as an investigation finds the mass tragedy at the Robb Elementary School could have been avoided or at the very least minimized.

Parents want to know why Salvador Ramos was able to enter the school without encountering a locked door and why police waited over an hour to engage the shooter.

Residents want to know why he was able to obtain a powerful assault weapon so soon after turning 18 and if more could have been done to flag him as a potential threat.

Four weeks later, more questions than answers plague Uvalde, lingering over the tight-knit community like a heavy blanket with little room to breathe. People find it hard to grieve because they are too busy holding their leaders to account.

“We elected them and we can pull this off,” resident Kim Hammond said Wednesday night at a community meeting. “Let’s show them sons of b— this is the last time this is going to happen.”

No amount of sunshine or humidity on Thursday could persuade Robb’s elementary school parent, Michael Brown, to step down from his post outside the Uvalde County courthouse, where he walked back and forth holding a sign calling for the dismissal of School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo. .

He waved and smiled as passing cars honked their horns, their drivers cheering him on with shouts and raised fists. Brown spent eight hours protesting on Wednesday and intended to do the same on Thursday and likely Friday — anything to get officials’ attention.

“It’s disgusting – the lies, the betrayal. It’s only getting worse,” Brown said.

Uvalde’s fury mounts a month after school massacre as investigation reveals numerous failures
Michael Brown outside the Uvalde County Courthouse.Alicia Victoria Lozano/NBC News

Across the street in the town square of Uvalde, flowers, pictures and crosses bearing the names of 21 victims remain firmly in place – a reminder that the town of some 15,000 people will no longer be never the same again.

On Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steve McCraw described law enforcement’s response as a “dismal failure.” He detailed how police could have entered the unlocked room where the shooter’s rampage took place, but instead chose to protect the lives of the officers over the children.

The following day, Arredondo was placed on administrative leave following a noisy city council hearing that drew heated comments from several community members.

“He didn’t do his job. He left them in there,” Brown said of Arredondo’s decision to delay confronting the shooter in the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers, adding that he regrets voting for Arredondo. and now wants to see him flee the city.

Residents have widely applauded the decision to discipline Arredondo, but say more needs to be done to regain the community’s trust.

“It’s a small step,” said Berlinda Arreola, whose 10-year-old granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza was among those killed.

Arreola refuses to refer to Arredondo by his title, instead calling him “Pete” and stating that she won’t give him the “respect” to use “chief” or “sir” when referring to the embattled official.

“We can’t take his badge away, but we can take him out of our lives,” she said. “It’s hard to watch him.”

Arreola was among relatives of several victims who attended a community meeting Wednesday night led by a group of medical professionals and residents.

The group, which calls itself Uvalde Strong for Gun Safety on Facebook, says it’s not anti-guns, but advocates for changes that would make it harder to buy assault-style weapons, like the one used by Ramos.

“In every country in the world, they probably have the same level and severity of mental health issues that we have here in America. The only difference is that we have easy access to high-powered firearms,” Rogelio Muñoz, a former member of the Uvalde city council, said at the meeting.

“The truth is that none of the children who died here would have died if we had a law against buying one of these guns at 18,” he added.

On Thursday, Arreola said a “dark cloud” continued to hang over Robb Elementary School. Her son lives a block away from Ramos’ grandmother and she continues to struggle knowing that “evil lurked” so close to her family.

She said that every day the grief becomes heavier and harder to bear. A month feels like the blink of an eye.

Uvalde’s fury mounts a month after school massacre as investigation reveals numerous failures
A memorial in front of Robb Elementary School on June 17. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

“It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “One thing after another comes back to back. It’s hard to believe anyone.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said earlier this week that he does not believe any child or teacher should be asked to return to Robb Elementary School and said he expects that let it be demolished. No timeline was provided, but President Joe Biden has previously expressed support for the school’s destruction.

Arreola and others gathered on Wednesday said they looked forward to the day when they will no longer have to see the campus where so much was taken from them.

“I’m so tired everyone is making excuses,” Arreola said. “I want answers.”

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