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'As soon as I heard that I went crazy': Parent remembers waiting outside school as kids were killed

Memorial for 19 students and two faculty members placed outside of Robb Elementary School on May 26, 2022.
Patricia Lim
Memorial for 19 students and two faculty members placed outside of Robb Elementary School on May 26, 2022.

More details are emerging on law enforcement’s response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two faculty members.

Parents and other guardians were outside the school that day desperately trying to get more information on what was happening and where their children were.

One of those parents was Christian Garcia — the father of a 3rd grader. He said Uvalde parents initially heard that someone was pulled over outside of the school. It later became known the 18-year-old gunman wrecked his car before he entered the building.

“Then my brother called me. He got it from a good source that there was actually a guy in there with hostages,” Garcia said.

He and his wife rushed over to the school. By the time they got there, it was already blocked off by law enforcement.

“They had some of the windows down on the cop cars and you could hear them talking and asking for an ambulance — that students were shot,” he said.

“And as soon as I heard that, I went crazy, trying to look for my daughter. They said they were taking kids to a funeral home.”

Loved ones were asked to meet at Uvalde’s civic center to find more information. But Garcia and his wife were afraid to leave the school in case their daughter was still inside. They decided to stay.

Christian Garcia is a father of a 3rd grader at Robb Elementary. He and his wife work at Uvalde Meat Market and Processing.
Bri Kirkham
Texas Public Radio
Christian Garcia is a father of a 3rd grader at Robb Elementary. He and his wife work at Uvalde Meat Market and Processing.

They found their daughter’s teacher, who is pregnant, but their daughter wasn’t with her. The teacher said she didn’t know where she was. Cell phone service was also not working properly outside of the school that day.

Robb Elementary is about 5 square acres — or about four football fields — and has multiple exterior doors. Some videos show parents being restrained by law enforcement while trying to get inside the school. Media outlets reported that some in Uvalde are critical of law enforcement’s response time and actions. Other reports detail that bystanders did successfully break exterior windows to help students escape.

Garcia said he didn’t see that, but the scene was intense. He also tried getting into the school.

“I tried, but I couldn't, you know. I think it was just more problems for the cops not knowing who I was,” he said.

Garcia and his wife were initially on the far-left of the school’s campus. They went around the property and continued to look for their daughter.

“We ran up to where we last saw her (the teacher) and she was right there… she pointed right away,” he said. “And as soon as I saw her (daughter) my heart sank… she ran out to me and hugged me. She was crying, shaking, having like a panic attack.”

She was in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting.

“I don't know how to feel because, I'm happy. But I don't know if it's the right emotion because my daughter is not one of those innocent babies,” Garcia said.

“There's one thing in this world you don't do. And that's hurt kids.”

Garcia said he thinks law enforcement did what they could, but he was frustrated with the lack of information given to parents and guardians outside the school that day. He added that he especially understands why parents who lost children are upset with the response time.

“You got to get there as fast as you can. And, you know, I'm not one of the parents who lost their child. But I bet they're upset with that — more than anything,” Garcia said.

He also thinks the private Facebook messages the gunman sent before the shooting should have been flagged by Meta, the company that owns Facebook, and reported to law enforcement.

As the days continue to come and go in the wake of the massacre, Garcia said Uvalde is pulling together as a community to support the families who lost children and loved ones. He also said he worries for his 9-year-old daughter, and wants her to seek mental health resources.

She will return to Robb Elementary in the fall as a 4th grader with her classmates.

“She will go back to school because we're not gonna back down. We're not gonna stay afraid. We're gonna stick together (and) stay strong.”

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Bri Kirkham
Paul Flahive is the technology and entrepreneurship reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.
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