Texas town begins funerals for children killed in Uvalde school shooting

First funerals held on Tuesday while questions about police response swirl

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The grieving Texas town of Uvalde has begun laying to rest the 21 children and teachers who were killed in a mass shooting at a primary school a week ago, with funerals taking place on Tuesday for a pair of 10-year-old girls.

Obituaries on the websites of Uvalde's two funeral homes said that Amerie Jo Garza was sweet, sassy and funny, and loved swimming and drawing.

Maite Yuleana Rodriguez was an honour pupil, loved learning about whales and dolphins, and dreamt of becoming a marine biologist.

Amerie, Maite, and 17 other pupils, aged between 9 and 11, as well as two of their teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman who burst into their grade four classroom and opened fire with a high-velocity AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

“Our focus on Tuesday is on our families who lost loved ones. We begin burying our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week's murders at Robb Elementary School,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a statement announcing the cancellation of a scheduled city council meeting on Tuesday.

Family and community members attend Amerie Jo Garza's burial service in Uvalde, Texas. AFP

Over the next two weeks, a series of funerals will take place in the town of 16,000 people, which is nearly 80 per cent Latino or Hispanic and largely Roman Catholic.

Among those will be services for the two teachers who died, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.

Garcia's husband, Jose, died of a heart attack two days after the shooting. A joint funeral is planned on Wednesday for the couple, who met in high school and had four children.

Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department, had been scheduled to be sworn in as a new member of the city council during the cancelled meeting.

Mr Arredondo has come under severe criticism for his response to the shooting.

He was the on-scene commander who decided against storming the classroom where the gunman opened fire, erroneously believing he had time to mount an assault, state public safety officials have said.

Local police waited outside the classroom for nearly an hour as children called the 911 emergency number pleading for help before a US Border Patrol tactical team killed the gunman.

Videos have surfaced showing the chaotic scene outside of the school, where desperate parents gathered as police responded to the attack.

One video, shot by a bystander and aired on CNN on Tuesday, picked up radio traffic of a child's call to police.

“Are you injured?” an adult is heard asking in the video.

“I got shot,” the frantic child said before the audio becomes unintelligible.

As the town grieves, the country again grapples with whether to reform federal and state gun laws, which in Texas allowed the shooter to legally buy weapons a week before the massacre.

Many Democrats, including US President Joe Biden, who travelled to Uvalde on Sunday to comfort the town, have called for more restrictions, including banning assault-style weapons and requiring universal background checks.

Agencies contributed reporting

Updated: May 31, 2022, 11:25 PM
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