Uvalde student Eliahna Garcia would have turned 10 at the weekend. Instead, her family is holding her funeral today
By Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
(CNN) – Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia would have turned 10 over the weekend, but instead of preparing to sing her “Happy Birthday,” her family prepared for her funeral.
Eliahna was among 19 students and two teachers killed by a gunman in adjacent classrooms at the elementary school on May 24. The tragedy has devastated the town of Uvalde, Texas, where families this week continue to bury their children killed in the shooting.
On Sunday Eliahna’s family paid a visit and on Monday morning they will gather again for a funeral service to honor the little girl who loved cheerleading and basketball and dreamed of becoming a teacher.
Local residents quickly laid a foundation of support for the survivors and the grieving families of the victims, including the Garcia family. Some companies have started having their employees wear the color purple and handing out purple gift bags to show their support for the grieving Eliahna, who loved the color.
But as the community gathers around the mourner, frustration remains high at officials’ lack of transparency about the horrifying day. Officials have repeatedly altered the narrative of what happened in the attack, including key details about how the gunman entered the school, why police delayed confronting the gunman, and how long it took authorities to reach out have killed him.
Former Uvalde councilor Rogelio Muñoz told CNN on Sunday he believes mistakes were made in the police response, but several people should share responsibility for law enforcement decisions made that day.
“Truth is often gray. It’s not black and white. You have the state authorities who responded, who throw local police under the bus. … The officers who responded were good, honorable people who in hindsight made a mistake in judgment in an aggravated situation,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz, who has no direct knowledge of what happened during the shooting, said he believes Uvalde School District Police Chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo is one of those who share responsibility for the law enforcement response. Arredondo is the one who made the decision not to immediately enter the classroom where the gunman was hiding with children and teachers, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
“Arredondo made mistakes that day, but he’s not the only one,” Muñoz told CNN, noting that DPS officials also reacted to the scene.
Arredondo was recently sworn in to the Muñoz City Council seat. The school’s police chief has largely stayed out of the public eye since last week, telling CNN he will not be releasing any further information while the victims’ funerals continue.
“We will be respectful to the family,” Arredondo said. “We’ll do that at some point. Whenever that is done and the families stop grieving, then of course we will.”
The lack of clear details about law enforcement’s response could hamper efforts to prevent future attacks on schools, according to state Senator Roland Gutierrez, representing Uvalde.
“How on earth are we supposed to be able to do anything if we can’t find out what happened in that building in those 40 minutes?” Gutierrez said in an interview with CNN on Friday.
“I do not want to go to school. Why? Get shot?’
The safety and recovery of surviving children in Uvalde has become an urgent priority for parents and local officials.
Students will not be returning to Robb Elementary campus for the next school year and arrangements are being made to place them in other schools, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell announced last week.
The plan was repeated at a school board meeting Friday night, but parents had no clear answers about the board’s plans to address the aftermath of the shooting.
Angela Turner, a mother of five in Uvalde who lost her niece in the school shooting, was outraged at the lack of a clear result.
“We want answers as to where security will take place. It was all a joke,” she said after the meeting. “I’m so disappointed in our school district.”
Turner will not allow her children to return to school until they feel safe, she said, adding her 6-year-old told her, “I don’t want to go to school. Why? To be shot?”
Robb Elementary joins a growing web of communities disrupted by gun violence. There have been 246 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot dead, not including the shooter.
Victims and families urge gun manufacturer accountability
The family of a student killed in the massacre and a teacher who survived the day’s horrors are both demanding information from the manufacturer that made the gun used by the shooter, court documents tell CNN.
The mother and father of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza, who was killed in the shooting, have written separate letters to Daniel Defense, the company that makes the AR-15 rifle used in the attack.
Attorneys for Amerie’s mother, Kimberly Garcia, urged Daniel Defense to preserve “all potentially relevant information” related to the shooting, including “all physical, electronic and documentary evidence potentially relevant to” the marketing of AR-15 rifles through the company are in response to a letter received from CNN.
Alfred Garza, Amerie’s father, also requested information about the manufacturer’s marketing strategies, particularly targeting children and young people, and the company’s communications with the shooter.
“My purpose for being now is to honor Amerie Jo’s memory,” Garza said in a press release about the letter. “She would want me to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other child. I must fight her battle.”
Emilia Marin, a teacher at Robb Elementary, filed a petition Thursday to oust Daniel Defense, a court filing shows. The pre-trial petition does not accuse the manufacturer of wrongdoing, but examines whether Marin has any basis to file a lawsuit against the company.
“We need to hold these people accountable,” Marin’s attorney, Don Flanary, told CNN, adding that her legal team has no plans to sue the school, the police, or the school district.
Through her requested testimony, Marin’s attorneys are seeking facts regarding the shooting, the possession and sale of the gun used by the shooter, the death and injury caused by the shooter’s use of a Daniel Defense AR-15 rifle. They are also seeking information about “Daniel Defense’s pattern of marketing his products in a manner associating firearms and minors by posting on social media,” the petition reads.
Daniel Defense has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CNN.
The CNN Wire
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