Every new piece of information about how officers responded to a school shooter in Uvalde, Texas, adds to the pain of the loss of their loved ones, family members told CNN.
“It was like putting salt on an open wound,” said Velma Duran, sister of murdered teacher Irma Garcia, of this week’s assessment of law enforcement’s response, which showed an armed police officer had the chance to kill the police officer. shooter before he entered Robbe Primary School.
“It’s hard to grieve when there’s no closure,” she said six weeks after the massacre.
Jacinto Cazares’ 9-year-old daughter was also killed. “It makes me sick, the police officer who has that man in his sights … he could have taken that man down,” he said.
“One thing, right there, that could have stopped everything. And it didn’t.”
And that was just the beginning of what Duran calls “a tsunami of failure at every agency out there — every single one.”
Two unlocked doors, a lack of effective command, officers’ positions inside and a loss of momentum after authorities entered the building were other issues highlighted in Wednesday’s report from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center, an active gunner and assault response training provider at Texas State University.
The mayor of Uvalde refutes the assessment of law enforcement’s response, saying the new report “does not provide a full and accurate account of what happened”.
Mayor Don McLaughlin disagreed with the first part of the assessment, which stated that a supervisor of the officer with a rifle who had seen the gunman either did not hear him or responded too late when asked for permission to fire.
“No Uvalde police officer saw the gunman on May 24 before entering the school,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “Not a single Uvalde police officer had a chance to shoot the gunman.”
There has already been massive criticism of law enforcement’s response. The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Colonel Steven McCraw, has said there were enough officers and equipment to stop the gunman three minutes after he entered the school.
Instead, it took 74 minutes for police to confront him, a time when teacher Arnie Reyes, who was in his own blood in classroom 111, thought he and his students had been forgotten.
The passivity is unfathomable to the families.
“These images I’ve seen of all these agencies that are around it… they’re under a tree, in the shade drinking water. And in my mind, I guess, these kids are screaming for help? Do they call 112? Are there any children who could have been saved?” said Duran, catching her breath as she fought back tears.
Two family members who are particularly critical are Irma Garcia’s brother Marcus Lozano, a police officer, and her eldest son Cristian Garcia, who lost his father Joe to a heart attack two days after his mother died.
“The moment I heard my mother was dead, I screamed, ‘I should have taken that bullet.’ I’m in the military. I know what needs to be done. I signed up for that… I told myself if I was in that position, I would have run in and caught a bullet,” Garcia said.
“He had no body armor. He had no shield. He had no backup. They were there. And then they did nothing,’ he continued, speaking of the shooter. “Why did my mom have to go to the door and look death in the damn eyes and try to lock that door?”
Lozano told CNN he was at the first briefing for the families where they could ask questions and he thought it was “smoke and mirrors.”
“What I asked them was what the first officers were doing, not engaging the shooter? I live in San Antonio. It took me 50 minutes to get from San Antonio to…Uvalde. They took 77. I drove through five cities and they tell me they had no firepower,” he said.
Lozano blamed “bad police, bad tactics” for not stopping the massacre.
“I love my brothers in blue, but it’s like any profession, you know? This profession is not made for everyone,” he continued. “It’s fine and dandy – you graduate from the academy, you get the badge, but when it comes time to put on your costume… you know, staring death in the face, they got weak at the knees .”
He accepts that some may still have died. “It’s a given that my sister [and] Ms Mireles – the adults will be the first… because they are the biggest threat to him,” he said. “But all those babies should never have died.”
Garcia wants those he holds responsible out of law enforcement. “Those officers who were in those corridors, I want them to resign. Everyone,” he said.
His aunt, Velma Duran, added, “Or fire them. I want to know who they are and I want their references taken.”
Garcia continued: “My mother protected those children, but no one protected her. So all the police here are cowards.”
Cazares collapses when he compares his daughter Jackie to those sent to save her.
“My daughter was a fighter, got a small bullet to the heart and was still fighting,” he said. “She fought hard to stay alive. And these cowards were not allowed in. Who knows how long she was like that? But she had struggle in her.
“They all have to go. They all have to go.”
Mayor McLaughlin told CNN he fears law enforcement will be covered up to avoid widespread blame, although both the Texas governor’s office and his law enforcement officers insisted that the investigation continue to uncover the truth.
And both Duran and Cazares said they sometimes felt that money and politics overshadowed the lives lost.
Duran urged her fellow Texans to take action.
“We can have safer schools. We can have bulletproof windows. We can have guards at every entrance or exit. If there are assault weapons, this continues. As we’ve noticed in recent days, it’s the assault weapons. So we have to vote these people out because right now it’s all about money and their political power.”