Uvalde one year later: Community reflects on the Robb Elementary mass shooting
Here's a look at how the tragic killing of 21 people has changed Uvalde, the state and the country.
Nineteen children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24, 2022. It was the deadliest shooting ever at a Texas public school.
The shooting prompted an outpouring of support for the small town as residents dealt with the massive tragedy. In the days that followed, we learned more about the 21 victims and the 18-year-old shooter. The delayed law enforcement response came under intense scrutiny.
As victims' families urged change in the wake of the shooting, some leaders sought to prevent the next tragedy by looking at ways to close gun purchasing loopholes and keep high-powered guns out of the hands of those as young as the Uvalde shooter. Other leaders looked at "hardening" school security and improving mental health resources as ways to prevent future attacks. A year later, little change has been made to state and national laws.
: The aftermath
News of the staggering number of casualties in the shooting shocked the town of Uvalde and the world. Residents there grieved, prayed, and donated blood as the injured victims fought for their lives.
A news conference held by state law enforcement officers two days later, on May 26, gave us the first glimpse into the delayed law enforcement response. The Texas Department of Public Safety revealed the shooter was in the classroom with victims for 76 minutes before law enforcement moved to take him down. There were more than 400 officers from several different departments that responded to the scene.
As details about the timeline became clearer, so did the anger and calls for investigation and accountability at all levels.
: The victims
The shooter barricaded himself inside a classroom and opened fire on the students and their teachers. The 19 students killed were all in the same fourth-grade class of Robb Elementary, a school that housed grades 2-4. The two teachers who were killed both died trying to shield the kids from bullets.
KENS 5 has gathered information on each of the victims. You can find that information here.
How the victims would be honored became a big question as well. The most recognizable memorial includes 21 crosses that bear the name of each victim in the Uvalde town square. For the last year, this has been a focal point of the community and central place to gather and remember the victims.
Before that came together, an east Texas business was called upon to make custom-designed caskets for each child victim. Trey Ganem, who owns SoulShine Industries, designed 19 caskets in three days. Each casket reflected a unique aspect of the child's personality.
In July, an artist and woodworker from Georgia created 21 handcrafted wooden benches in memory of each of the victims.
: Investigation and accountability
The reveal that it took law enforcement officers more than an hour to confront the gunman prompted a cascade of investigations that would culminate in calls for accountability. Many victims' families as well as other community members were vocal in their demands for consequences among the leaders.
Notably, the former chief of the Uvalde school district's police department, Pete Arredondo, who was considered the on-scene commander, was fired. Others who faced consequences were from the Uvalde Police Department, Uvalde CISD, and Texas DPS.
Soon after the shooting, it was announced that a special Texas House committee would begin interviews on the police response. On July 12, the special committee released the damning report, which showed that systematic failures went far beyond just the school district's police department.
Along with that report, hours and hours of bodycam video was released that showed the agonizingly long wait to take action against the gunman.
Other investigations stemmed from the shooting, including a Texas Tribune report in March of previously unreleased interviews. In the report, law enforcement officers on the scene said they were cowed by the shooter's military-style rifle, and that influenced their decision to wait for more than an hour for a Border Patrol SWAT team to engage him.
: A school year after tragedy
Throughout the summer of 2022, one of the biggest challenges the school district faced was how to make parents and families feel comfortable sending their kids back to school in the wake of the tragedy.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the school district's police force, Texas DPS pledged 33 state troopers to be stationed at Uvalde schools during the school year. Fencing and other security measures were also added to Uvalde schools.
Robb Elementary itself permanently closed, and its students were split up between two campuses. Recently, artist renderings were released that show the new school to replace Robb, which includes a memorial for the 21 victims, as well as spaces for reflection and meditation.
: Calls for change
Many of the families of the Uvalde students and teachers who lost their lives have spent the year calling for change and reform to gun policy at all levels. They traveled to Austin and even Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard.
Joining them in their efforts has been Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde. He has been vocal in pressing his fellow leaders in making changes to the law. He released a series of bills he authored that call for closing gun show loopholes, improving the background check system, and raising the age to purchase AR-style rifles, among several other policy changes. The gunman at Robb Elementary legally purchased AR-15 type rifles just after his 18th birthday, just days before the shooting.
After a mass shooting this spring at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, lawmakers voted the "raise the age" bill out of committee with some bipartisan support. However, the bill became stalled once again and was not expected to advance further before the end of the legislative session May 29.
On a national level, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn led a bipartisan group to pass the first significant federal gun legislation since 1994. The measure included incentives for states to implement red flag laws that keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose threats to themselves or others as well as prohibiting firearms for those convicted of domestic violence. It also included funding for school security and mental health resources.
Shortly after the Uvalde shooting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed a legislative committee to review school security measures, including random security inspections at schools throughout the state. In October, he followed up on the committee's actions by appointing a new Chief of School Safety and Security.