More than a month after the massacre at Robb Elementary School,
their anger and frustration at the lack of answers about the apparently bungled law enforcement response boiled over Thursday at an emotional City Council meeting.
“We’re sitting just here listening to empty words,” said Velma Lisa Duran, whose sister, teacher Irma Garcia, was killed trying to shield her students from the bullets.
“These kids were obliterated. My sister was obliterated. It was a closed casket. I couldn’t hug her. I couldn’t touch her. I couldn’t say my last goodbye,” Duran said, fighting back tears.
Since May 24, authorities have changed their account multiple times of key facts about what happened inside the classrooms and what police did during the time the 18-year-old gunman wreaked his carnage.
“The fact that you’re sitting there doing s— is really infuriating,” Duran told local officials, noting that families of the victims have had to “hold onto each other” for support.
For weeks, families of the victims and Uvalde residents have asked for explanations about why police took so long to enter the school, and why authorities didn’t act on concerns about the gunman’s behavior.
Indeed, questions over the police response have compounded the pain of grieving families, especially when they specifically learned the gunman remained inside classrooms from 11:33 a.m. until 12:50 p.m. — when, officials said, officers finally breached a door and killed him.
A key question has been whether some children could still be alive if police had followed mass shooter procedures recommended since the Columbine school massacre in 1999
to take down the assailant as soon as possible.
One official who could answer questions about the law enforcement response, Uvalde school district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo
, was not at Thursday’s meeting.
Arredondo, who was sworn in as a city council member
weeks after the massacre, led the flawed law enforcement response to the school shooting but has largely remained out of the public eye.
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District placed him on leave last month.
Arredondo testified behind closed doors in Austin recently before a Texas House committee looking into the massacre.
Arredondo could be voted out, per the city charter, if he misses the next council meeting, his third consecutive absence.
“I don’t think there’s anybody up here that will tell you that we won’t take the action that we need to take,” McLaughlin said.
CNN has contacted Arrendondo’s attorney for comment.
On Thursday, the people the residents of Uvalde elected to represent them had no answers for their constituents.
“The one thing I can tell you is, we don’t know anymore,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said at the meeting, adding that he, too, was frustrated at the lack of transparency from investigators.
“We’re not trying to hide anything from you,” the mayor insisted.
Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee has said it “will take time” to complete investigative reports
of the shooting and response, and she doesn’t expect that information for a while.
Relatives of the victims
say they’re tired of excuses.
“We need something to happen now,” said Duran, who drove an hour and half from San Antonio to Uvalde for the meeting. “We need change. Enough is enough.”
The children of Uvalde are afraid to return to their classrooms, Duran and others said.
“These kids are not going to go back to school and it’s going to be on your hands,” Duran said. “This blood is on your hands because you failed to do anything.”
Angel Garza, whose daughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed in the shooting, on Thursday asked the mayor and other city leaders if they had children. He implored them to act as if their own children had been gunned down at Robb Elementary.
“We want y’all to look at this — not as a mayor, not as a city council member,” he said. “Look at it as a dad, as a parent. Don’t do what you can do as a mayor. Go beyond that … What if it was your kid?”
McLaughlin has repeatedly expressed frustration with his inability to get answers about what happened from state public safety officials investigating the shooting.
“Ma’am, let me tell you something. I feel your pain. We all do,” the mayor told Duran at one point during the meeting.
Duran looked at McLaughlin. “No you don’t.”