Uvalde victims’ funerals begin as locals grapple with anger over school chief’s role

 It should have been the first day of a joyous week for Robb Elementary School students – the start of summer break. Instead on Monday, the first two of 19 children slain inside a classroom were being remembered at funeral visitations.

Their funerals are scheduled for Tuesday.

The gathering for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza was at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, directly across from the grade school where the children, along with two teachers, were shot to death on Tuesday before the gunman himself was killed. Visitation for another 10-year-old, Maite Rodriguez, was at the town’s other funeral home.

Over the next two-and-a-half traumatic weeks, people in this southwestern Texas town will say goodbye to the children and their teachers, one heart-wrenching visitation, funeral and burial after another. As families and friends unleash their grief, investigators will push for answers about how police responded to the shooting, and lawmakers have said they’ll consider what can be done to stem the gun violence permeating the nation.

The blame for an excruciating delay in killing the gunman at a Texas elementary school — even as parents outside begged police to rush in and panicked children called 911 from inside — has been placed with the school district’s homegrown police chief.

It’s left residents in the small city of Uvalde struggling to reconcile what they know of the well-liked local lawman after the director of state police said that the commander at the scene — Pete Arredondo — made the “wrong decision” last week not to breach a classroom at Robb Elementary School sooner, believing the gunman was barricaded inside and children weren’t at risk.

Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at the Friday news conference that after following the gunman into the building, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting.

Arredondo, who grew up in Uvalde and graduated from high school here, was set to be sworn in Tuesday to his new spot on the City Council after being elected earlier this month, but Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a statement Monday that wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the swearing-in would happen privately or at a later date.

McCraw said Friday that minutes after the gunman entered the school, city police officers entered through the same door. Over the course of more than an hour, law enforcement from multiple agencies arrived on the scene. Finally, officials said, a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.

McCraw said that students and teachers had repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while Arredondo told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. That directive — which goes against established active-shooter protocols — prompted questions about whether more lives were lost because officers didn’t act faster.

Source: AP and CBS