With more funerals and visitations scheduled Wednesday for victims of the deadliest US school shooting in nearly 10 years, more changes in authorities’ narrative of how the May 24 massacre unfolded in the South Texas city of Uvalde are emerging.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS, now says the door the shooter used to access Robb Elementary was closed, though not locked, when he entered before killing 21 people there.
That’s a change from last week, when DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw said a teacher had propped the back door open and left it that way. On Tuesday, department spokesperson Travis Considine told the Associated Press the teacher did prop the door open but closed it once she realized a shooter was on campus, and the door did not lock. The department’s press secretary confirmed Tuesday to CNN the AP report was accurate.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed after an 18-year-old gunman entered adjoining classrooms and opened fire.
Tuesday’s clarification about the door represents just one of the shifts in authorities’ explanation of the massacre’s timeline. They face mounting questions over why 80 minutes elapsed from the time officers were first called to the moment a tactical team entered the locked classrooms and killed the gunman.
Meanwhile, families and friends have begun burying their loved ones, and the community continues to cope. In Uvalde’s sun-drenched town square, a park fountain is the centerpiece of a growing memorial honoring those lost.
Hundreds of flower bouquets ring the fountain, stacked alongside toys, stuffed animals, candles and letters in memory of the 21 killed. Framed posters show smiling faces, leaning against walls covered with hearts drawn and names written in chalk.
On a pathway leading to the square, visitors slowly walk past a row of crosses, stopping to pray or reflect on the devastating tragedy. Each cross – several feet tall and draped with flowers, balloons and messages of remembrance – carries the name of someone killed.
Ryan Ramirez, the father of Alithia Ramirez, said he waited for nearly 12 hours before learning she was killed. He described his 10-year-old daughter as “very lovable and kind.”
“She was just there for anybody that needed anything. And that was one thing that we all loved about her,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.
Alithia “loved drawing,” her father said, and when he met with President Joe Biden during his Uvalde visit on Sunday, Biden told him that he would have one of Alithia’s drawings displayed at the White House.
She “always had a crayon in hand, just going to town,” Ramirez said.
The slaughter ended Robb Elementary’s school year a few days early, and students and staff “will not be returning” to that campus, the district’s superintendent said Wednesday. Superintendent Hal Harrell’s statement did not elaborate on the building’s future; a state senator has suggested the school may be razed.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday asked the state’s lieutenant governor and the state House speaker to convene special legislative committees to make “legislative recommendations on school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety and more.”
Abbott also directed the Texas School Safety Center, an official research center at Texas State University, to conduct “comprehensive school safety reviews” and make sure all school districts’ safety and security committees meet before the new academic year to discuss needs, review procedures and ensure all appropriate staff are trained on safety procedures, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The governor said the center must provide a progress report by October 1.
Three people injured by the gunman remained hospitalized Tuesday at University Hospital San Antonio. The gunman’s 66-year-old grandmother, who was shot in the face before the attack on the school, is in good condition; a 9-year-old girl is in good condition; and a 10-year-old girl is in serious condition, the hospital said.