Father’s anguish outside Texas school during filming unfolded | Chicago News


In this image from the video, Javier Cazares shows a photo of his daughter, Jackie Cazares, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Jackie, 9, was among 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Javier Cazares rushed to his daughter’s school when he heard there had been a shooting, leaving his truck running with the door open as he raced through the schoolyard. In his haste, he did not bring his weapon.

He spent the next 35 to 45 agonizing minutes scanning children fleeing Robb Elementary School in search of his 9-year-old “firecracker,” Jacklyn. All the while, he yearned to run within himself – and grew increasingly agitated, along with other parents, that the police wouldn’t do more to arrest the teenage shooter who holed up in a bathroom. class, killing children.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all have to go. You all have to do your job,” said Cazares, an army veteran. “We were ready to go to work and rush.”

Nineteen children and two teachers were ultimately shot in the roughly 80 minutes the shooter spent inside the school in Uvalde, Texas, a small, predominantly Latino community that sits amid fields of vegetables halfway between San Antonio and the US-Mexico border.

This account of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook is based on law enforcement timelines, records, and numerous interviews with Uvalde residents in the hours and days after the massacre.

Salvador Ramos woke up early on May 24, sending disturbing messages. Authorities identified that the shooter had turned 18 the previous week and quickly purchased two AR-15 type rifles along with hundreds of cartridges.

In the pre-dawn hours in his grandparents’ shady neighborhood just half a mile from the site he would turn into a killing ground, Ramos wrote ‘I’m about to’ to a woman on Instagram and sent someone a private message on Facebook saying he was going to shoot his grandmother.

Within hours, he had done it.

Sometime after 11 a.m., a neighbor who was in his yard heard a gunshot and looked up to see Ramos running out the front door of his grandparents’ house to a van parked the along the narrow street. The 18-year-old looked panicked and struggled to get the Ford out of the park, said Gilbert Gallegos, 82.

Ramos finally left, throwing a gravel jet into the air. Moments later, her grandmother emerged from the one-story house covered in blood.

“That’s what he did,” Gallegos recalled, shouting. “He shot me.”

Gallegos’ wife called 911 as he took the injured woman to their yard. As they hid and waited for the police, more shots rang out.

At 11:28 a.m., Ramos drove to Robb Elementary and crashed the pickup into a drainage ditch, authorities said. At the time, the video shows a teacher entering the school through a door the teacher had walked out of and opened a minute earlier.

This door was generally closed and locked, in accordance with security protocol. But he remained ajar.

Witnesses said Ramos jumped out of the passenger side of the truck with a rifle and a backpack full of ammunition. After shooting two men who came out of a nearby funeral home, Ramos jumped a chain-link fence and headed for the school – still shooting – as panicked people nearby called the police.

Authorities initially said Ramos exchanged gunfire with a school policeman before entering the building, but later said the officer was not actually on campus and that he was “quick” upon hearing about the shooter.

But the officer headed for the wrong man first, confronting someone who turned out to be a teacher – after passing within yards of Ramos, who was crouched behind a vehicle parked outside the school.

From his hiding place, Ramos made his way to the propped open door, slipped through and into the adjacent fourth-grade classrooms at 11:33 a.m., authorities said. He quickly fired over 100 rounds.

In one such room, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo covered herself in a friend’s blood to look dead, she told CNN. After the shooter moved into the adjacent room, she could hear screams, more gunshots, and music being played by the shooter.

Two minutes after Ramos entered the school, three police officers followed him through the same door and were quickly joined by four others. Authorities said Ramos exchanged gunfire from the classroom with the officers in the hallway and two of them suffered “grazing wounds”.

The first officers on the scene were overwhelmed by Ramos’ powerful high-end rifle, according to a man who watched from a nearby house.

“After he started shooting at the cops, the cops stopped shooting,” 24-year-old Juan Carranza said. “You could tell the firepower he had was stronger than the cops’ guns.”

After gunshots began to ring out, a cafeteria worker who had just finished serving chicken tacos to 75 third-graders said a woman shouted in the lunch room, “Code black. This is not a drill!”

Employees did not know what “code black” meant but closed blinds, locked doors and escorted students behind a stage, said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid publicity. Some staff members then took refuge in the kitchen.

Nearly half an hour after first officers followed Ramos inside, as many as 19 crowded the hallway, authorities said.

Meanwhile, students and teachers elsewhere in the building were trying to get out, some climbing through windows with the help of police.

Cazares isn’t sure exactly when he arrived at the scene, but when he did he saw about five officers helping people escape. He watched closely to see if Jacklyn, whom he later said enjoyed gymnastics, singing and dancing, was among them.

About 15 to 20 minutes after arriving at the school, he said he first spotted officers arriving with heavy shields.

In the chaos, he felt that time “moved so fast and it went so slow”.

But he added: “From what I saw, things could have been very different.”

Other parents felt the same. A bystander recalled a woman yelling at officers, “Get in there!” Go for it !

At 12:03 p.m., a female student called 911 and whispered that she was inside the classroom with the shooter.

Minutes later, the Uvalde School District posted on Facebook that all campuses were going to be locked down but “students and staff are safe in the buildings. The buildings are secure.

The student called 911 again, minutes after her first call, to say there were several dead, then called back shortly after, saying eight or nine students were still alive.

Thirty-four minutes passed between the time of that last call and the time a US Border Patrol tactical team used a school employee’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the shooter.

An open door let him in. A locked door had kept him inside and law enforcement outside.

Police didn’t enter the classroom any faster because the commander inside the building — school district police chief Pete Arredondo — believed the situation had grown from an active shootout. to a hostage situation, said Steven McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public. Security.

Officers from other agencies urged the school’s police chief to let them move in because the children were in danger, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not had not been authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. McCraw said the gunshots were “sporadic” for most of the time officers waited in the hallway and investigators don’t know if any children died during that time.

“It was the wrong decision,” McCraw said.

Arredondo could not be reached for comment. No one answered the door to his home on Friday, and he did not respond to a phone message left at district police headquarters.

The loss of so many young lives and the admission of mistakes by police has cast doubt, even for some Second Amendment supporters in the Texas community, on a refrain Republican leaders in the state used after that shooting. and others: “What stops armed? the bad guys are the good guys with guns.

Cazares, a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, said he was turning away from politics – but added that he thinks there should be tougher gun laws, including better background checks. He called the sale of the type of weapon the attacker was using to an 18-year-old “pretty ridiculous”.

Cazares left school before police killed Ramos at 12:50 p.m. He rushed to hospital because his niece said she saw Jacklyn in an ambulance.

The whole family soon gathered there, urging hospital staff to inquire for nearly three hours. Finally, a pastor, a policeman and a doctor met them.

“My wife asked the question, ‘Is she alive or is she dead?'” Cazares said. “They were like, ‘No, she’s gone.'”

When he finally got to see his daughter’s body, Cazares swore that her death would not be in vain.

Later, he fought back tears thinking about his daughter’s final moments.

“She could be fiery,” he said. “It kind of comforts our hearts that she was one of those who was brave and tried to help as much as she could.”


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