AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school rampage tearfully pleaded on Thursday with Texas lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation and questioned why so many security measures failed.
“I’m here begging for you guys to do something,” said Jazmin Cazares, whose young sister Jacklyn was was one of 19 children killed in the 80 minutes the gunman spent inside Robb Elementary School on May 24 before police stormed the classroom and killed him. Two teachers also died in the massacre.
The gunman was a former student, Salvador Ramos.
“Days after turning 18, he bought an AR-15, hundreds of rounds of ammunition,” she said.
Jacklyn and her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, were best friends, part of a close-knit quintet of classmates. All five died in the shooting.
Days after the tragedy, Jacklyn’s father, Javier Cazares, told of how he rushed to the school and kept a close watch on the children fleeing the school to catch a glimpse of his 9-year-old “firecracker” who loved gymnastics, singing and dancing.
He and other parents grew frustrated that the police weren’t doing more to stop the gunman.
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs,’” said Cazares, an Army veteran. “We were ready to go to work and rush in.”
Those delays and mistakes in the law enforcement response are now at the center of federal, state and local investigations. The head of the Texas state police this week called it an “abject failure,” and said how police reacted went against everything learned in the two decades since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999.
Officers with rifles stood in a hallway for over an hour, waiting in part for more weapons and gear, before going inside the classroom, said Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
He put much of the blame for the delays on Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief who McCraw said was the commander in charge.
The school district put the police chief on administrative leave on Wednesday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said the facts of what happened remain unclear and that he didn’t know when details of multiple investigations would be revealed.
Arredondo has said he didn’t consider himself in charge and assumed someone else had taken control. He has declined repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Uvalde’s mayor has pushed back on McCraw’s casting blame on Arredondo, saying the Department of Public Safety has repeatedly put out false information about the shooting and glossed over the role of its own officers.
Stengle reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting
Jim Vertuno And Jamie Stengle, The Associated Press