UVALDE, Texas—On a day meant to remember two of those killed in the massacre that took place last week here, the overall feeling was anger.
Many in the community are finding it hard to properly grieve the 21 lives lost when there seems to be so much injustice and an overall lack of trust in those who were sworn to protect and serve.
“Mistakes were made and we have no promise that they will never happen again,” said Peter Vasquez, a friend of 10-year-old victim Maite Rodriguez. “They brag about all of this training and all of this equipment and how they are prepared. All of that turned out to be lies.”
Maite Rodriguez will be laid to rest on Tuesday after a visitation was held Monday. A rosary Mass was set to take place on Monday evening for Amerie Jo Garza. As the memorials start to take place, the sorrow continues and so does the anger.
“They had to borrow equipment,” said Uvalde resident Miguel Flores. “In 2018 the police department claimed to have gotten grant money to buy equipment for this very thing. Where was this equipment last week when our children needed it?”
Flores was referring to a Facebook post that the Uvalde Police Department made back on Aug. 1, 2018, claiming that it had been awarded a grant from Gov. Greg Abbott that provided every single officer in the department with Level 4 body armor.
Back in 2017 during the legislative session, Texas taxpayers were asked to foot the bill for a $23 million grant program that sent 453 police jurisdictions around the state the money to buy Level 4 body armor that could have (and should have) been used during a situation like the one that occurred in Uvalde last Tuesday. A spokesperson for the state said that most of that money came from the state’s general fund—but either way, some locals are now wondering whether that money was wasted here.
“I guess you can’t buy bravery,” said Javier Cazares, 43, whose daughter, Jacklyn, was killed in the shooting along with her cousins. “I mean I was there right outside and we heard the shooting. We were ready to go inside and the police just waited.”
Waiting was not what these parents and this community expected.
“We are told over and over again that these guys will be there for us when we need them,” said Martin Gonzalez. “Where in the hell were they?”
Gonzalez said he wanted to go and pay his respects to young Maite Rodriguez on Monday night but that his anger just wouldn’t let him.
“I can’t go in there and mourn and grieve with my friends when I know that I have all of this anger in my heart,” he said. “These people who blindly trust these officials need to open their eyes.”
Uvalde is not far from the Texas-Mexico border, where Abbott and fellow hardline Republicans have launched their own border security initiative known as “Operation Lone Star,” under which they use state law enforcement and National Guard to deter undocumented migrants from crossing the border. The narrative is that federal forces are weak, frail, and unable to protect the citizens of the state and country. The governor has repeatedly noted how the federal government has failed. In the end, it was those federal agents that helped end the massacre that took the lives of 21 people, including 19 children—while local and state law enforcement waited and wondered about what to do.
“Thank God Border Patrol was here,” said Gonzalez. “If they had not come in and taken control, then more people may have died.”
Sounds of crying filled the streets of Uvalde on Monday afternoon as the community struggled to process its grief. Locals’ hearts are full of pain, some of it inflicted by those they thought could be trusted.
“We never had this kind of mistrust and confusion until they started making Border Patrol out to be monsters,” said Gonzalez. “They are using us as pawns in their political game to get re-elected.”
Angelica Morales sat under the shade of a large oak tree on Monday trying to find peace amid all the tragedy.
“I can’t help but feel like if we had been a mostly white suburban community that things would have been different,” she said. “We are poor Hispanic families out here, and that is what makes us very different than the others.”
She said Hispanics have always been seen as the overlooked minority in places like Texas. She added that she didn’t want to make the situation about race and ethnicity but that in her mind it is hard not to think about it.
“I look at how we compare with Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and the others,” she said, referring to previous sites of school shootings. “The real main difference is our skin color and ethnicity.”
Morales said she is concerned that things are getting worse.
“Many of the officers that responded were Hispanic,” she said. “This is like what would happen back in Mexico. The so-called ‘good guys’ would wait until the bad guys were finished and then they would rush in like heroes. But really they waited because they were scared.”