UVALDE, Texas, USA ( Associated Press) — Days after a man stormed an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers before officers killed him, signs of grief, pride and , anger and solidarity everywhere in this town.
Many wear maroon, the color of the Uvalde school district. Additionally, pale blue ribbons adorn the giant oak trees that shade the city’s central plaza, where mourners come to lay flowers around a fountain and write messages on wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. In front of a nursery on one of the main streets of the city, there are 21 empty wooden chairs.
Everyone in the predominantly Hispanic city of about 16,000 people seems to know someone whose life was turned upside down by losing a family member or close friend in the attack on Robb Elementary School, which was one of the deadliest of its kind.
Joe Ruiz, pastor of the Templo Cristiano church, said that a teacher friend of his wife – herself a former teacher in Uvalde – was the one who best summed up the mood of the community by saying that people have “cried everything” as much as they could and Now he just needs to rest.
Police have been lambasted for waiting more than 45 minutes to confront 18-year-old assailant Salvador Ramos inside adjoining classrooms where he unleashed the carnage.
As the investigation into the attack continues, including Ramos’ reasons for carrying it out, some residents have expressed anger at police. Among them is carpenter Juan Carranza, 24, who said he saw the attack unfold from across the street from the school. The next day, he called the agents cowards.
Steven McCraw, who heads the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday that school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo made the “wrong decision” by waiting so long before sending officers into locked classrooms. He said Arredondo, who was in charge of law enforcement response during the siege, believed Ramos was barricaded inside the two adjoining classrooms and the children were no longer in danger.
Arredondo, who finished his high school studies in Uvalde and was recently elected to the council, has not spoken publicly since McCraw criticized his decision-making. His house now has a police guard.
Support for gun rights is strong in Uvalde, which is roughly halfway between San Antonio and the city of Del Rio, which borders Mexico. But some parents and relatives of the victims are calling for a change.
“I just don’t know how people can sell that kind of gun to an 18-year-old. What is he going to use it for but for that purpose?” asked Siria Arizmendi, a fifth-grade elementary school teacher whose niece, Eliahna García, was murdered. She spoke in her dining room shortly before Eliahna’s great-grandparents arrived, also residents of Uvalde.
Javier Carranza, 43, is an Army veteran and gun owner. His daughter, Jacklyn, was murdered. He opined that it was “somewhat ridiculous” for a gun store to sell such firepower to an 18-year-old and that better background checks are needed.