Mourners gather as funerals begin for the Uvalde school murders

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Porters wore white shirts and gloves. The desert-colored church with the tall steeple was packed. The casket contained a 10-year-old girl who loved purple.

On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral mass of Amerie Jo Garza, a smiling fourth-grade student who was killed a week ago when Salvador Ramos, 18, broke into her Uvalde, Texas primary school and opened fire on his class. Amerie’s funeral was the first since the massacre, with that of Maite Rodriguez scheduled for later Tuesday at a funeral home in Uvalde.

Nineteen more funerals are planned over the next two and a half weeks for the 19 children and two teachers who were killed in this classroom on May 24.

Mourner Erika Santiago, her husband and their two children wore purple shirts adorned with images of the victims of Amerie’s funeral. She described Amerie as “a sweet little girl who smiled a lot” and was “so humble and charismatic but full of life”.

Santiago said his 10-year-old son Adriel watched in horror as news reports showed images of people killed for the first time and recognized his friends Amerie and Maite.

“He told me he didn’t want to go to school, fearing it would happen,” Santiago said. “He was like, ‘Mom, I just don’t feel safe.’”

Visitations for one of the teachers, Irma Garcia, 48, also took place on Tuesday, as well as visits for children Nevaeh Bravo and Jose Flores Jr.

Vincent Salazar’s 11-year-old daughter Layla has the last of the scheduled services – her visitation is June 15 with the funeral the following day. Salazar said the family likely won’t see Layla’s body until after the visitation.

“I understand there were other kids there too, but we’re just waiting for her to come back,” Salazar said. “That’s all we focus on.”

Uvalde County Justice of the Peace Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz Jr. said the bodies of the 21 victims were first sent to the San Antonio Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsies, which he said is the standard for a major crime. Then, because there is not enough space at Uvalde’s two funeral homes, many bodies were sent to funeral homes outside of town until services approached. Uvalde Funeral Homes are working with families on when they can see their loved ones, he said.

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“It’s mostly because of the number of casualties,” Diaz said, asking, “Where do you store so many people?”

Diaz said the autopsies have been completed. He declined to discuss preliminary results and said final reports would take three to four months.

Vincent Salazar said he and his family would go to as many visits as possible to pay their respects to the other victims and their families.

“Not necessarily going to the funeral because we’re still going about things hour by hour, day by day here,” Salazar said. “We have so much to do with ours. You have to put everything in place – obituaries, death certificates, funeral arrangements.

“That’s all we’re focused on right now – her, getting her back and being able to rest her,” Salazar said of Layla. “That’s it.”

Investigators continue to search for answers on how the police reacted to the shooting, and the U.S. Department of Justice reviews enforcement actions.

Blame for an excruciating delay in the shooting of the shooter – even as parents outside pleaded for police to rush and panicked children called 911 from inside – was assigned to the police chief school district local, Pete Arredondo.after the state police director says Arredondo made the ‘bad decision’ not to enter the classroom, believing the shooter was barricaded inside and the children were not in danger.

Steven McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday that after tracking the shooter into the building, officers waited more than an hour. burst into the classroom. The revelation raised new questions about whether lives were lost because officers did not act more quickly to arrest the shooter, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical agents.

State police said Tuesday that the teacher who at one point opened an exterior door at school had closed it before the shooter used it to get inside.

However, the door did not lock, police said. Authorities initially said Ramos entered through the door she held open.

Instead, investigators said the teacher, who has not been identified, closed the open door when she realized there was a shooter on campus and ran to get her. telephone and call 911, said Travis Considine, director of communications for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Investigators are trying to find out why the door did not lock.

Jacob Albarado, an off-duty Border Patrol agent who rushed to school with a shotgun borrowed from his barber, said Tuesday it was chaotic when he arrived looking for his daughter and of his wife. Both were physically safe during the attack, he said.

“For me, I believe everyone there was doing their best given the circumstances,” he said. NBC’s “Today Show”. “I believe everyone there was doing everything in their power.”

Authorities said Ramos legally purchased two weapons shortly before the school attack: an AR-type rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, which allowed him to purchase the guns under federal law.

of President Joe Biden Tuesday’s long-scheduled meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved to gun control after what happened in Uvalde and a week earlier in Buffalo, New Yorkwhere 10 black people were killed by a gunman espousing the “racist replacement theory”.

Ardern won gun control measures after a white supremacist killed 51 Muslim worshipers at two Christchurch mosques in 2019. Less than a month later, all but one of the country’s 120 lawmakers , voted in favor of banning military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Biden told reporters he’ll “meet with Congress on guns, I promise you,” but the White House has acknowledged that getting new gun legislation would be a tough climb. in an equally divided Congress.


Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri.


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