The broken trust is still felt in Uvalde as the school year approaches

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Even though Uvalde’s school police chief is now gone, Mario Jimenez doesn’t feel any safer sending his 10-year-old son back to class for the first time since his teacher was shot at the elementary school. Rob.

“There were a lot more officers that were there and they should take responsibility for their actions,” Jimenez said.

The shooting of Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who for more than 70 minutes during the May 24 massacre did not try to confront a gunman firing an AR-15-style rifle inside a fourth-grade classroom, did not satisfy either reassured many Uvalde. residents nervously facing a fast-approaching school year.

The concern illustrates the depths of broken trust in Uvalde between residents and law enforcement more than three months after 19 children and two teachers were killed in one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. The demands are constant: more gunfire, more security, more gun restrictions. But even then, some are not convinced that any change is enough.

The first day of school at Uvalde is Sept. 6, and a big question is how many students will return.

Jimenez puts his son back in the area, this time with an iPhone, so he can track his location and call for help if needed. His son’s teacher, Elsa Avila, was injured in the attack.

“He just runs up to her and hugs her and starts crying because he knows she’s okay,” Jimenez said. “Every day all he does is ask how everyone else is doing, even though his mental state is horrible.”

Ronnie Garza, a Uvalde County commissioner, has five grandchildren who will return to the classroom next month – three in Uvalde schools and two in a private school. He noticed a reluctance from parents to re-enroll their children in the district and said many families are switching their children to the local private Catholic school.

Virtual education is another option, but a new Texas law passed during the pandemic limits the number of students who can be homeschooled to 10 percent of a district’s enrollment. The Uvalde school district has not requested a waiver, according to the Texas Department of Education.

The district is installing higher fences, more security cameras and deploying more than 30 state troopers on campuses throughout the small South Texas town. For some families, this provides some peace of mind. the Texas Department of Public Safety had more than 90 troopers, many heavily armed, stationed at Robb Elementary as the massacre continued.

“They were on campus that day and they also didn’t do anything, so I don’t know how much comfort that brings us,” said Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was among the students killed. .

She has four other children between the ages of 8 and 18, the youngest of whom was also at Robb Elementary and is now able to start school almost this year.

“They failed me, they failed us. I don’t know that I’ll ever be the same after this as far as law enforcement goes,” she said.

Arredondo’s firing Wednesday followed months of pressure from Uvalde residents and an investigation that revealed how nearly 400 law enforcement officers on the scene waited outside for more than an hour before taking down the 18-year-old gunman. Signs parents brought to a heated school board meeting before Arredondo was fired included one that read, “If you didn’t do your job, turn in your badge.”

But it’s unclear whether any officers besides Arredondo will have to do so because of a botched response that Col. Steve McCraw, the state police chief, called “an abject failure.” Only one other officer, police Lt. Uvalde Mariano Pargas — who was the city’s acting police chief on the day of the massacre — is known to have been placed on leave for his actions during the shooting.

The investigation into Parga’s action is ongoing. The Texas DPS also launched an internal review of its troopers’ response after a damning report by lawmakers revealed that long inaction by law enforcement outflanked Arredondo and local police.

It is unclear when either review will be completed.

“Any officer that was in there and didn’t do anything, we’re going to go after them, too,” said Uvalde resident Donna Torres, who since the shooting has been held accountable at school board and city council meetings.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called Arredondo’s firing “the first step toward accountability.” Abbott’s initial comments after the shooting praised the law enforcement response but said days later that he had been misled, a reversal that exposed the conflicting and at times inaccurate statements from authorities in the days after the tragedy.

“This is a good start, but there is more work to be done,” Abbott said in a statement. “There needs to be accountability at all levels in the response to Rob Elementary School.”

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Weber reported from Austin, Texas.

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For more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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