Texas victims’ parents wonder if lives could have been saved if police confronted gunman earlier

As he prayed at the small cross in her memory, Vincent Salazar was hopeful his daughter Layla’s body would soon be returned to her family to prepare for her funeral.

The 11-year-old girl, the ‘baby of the family’ who loved TikTok and denim jackets, was one of the 19 children who died at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

If the grief for the loss of a child could possibly be made any more intense, Vincent is one of those parents who wonders whether those lives could have been saved.

The remarkable admission by one of Texas’s most senior police officers that the “wrong decision” was made in not confronting the gunman earlier has undoubtedly added to the pain of families.

Vincent Salazar and daughter Layla
Image:Vincent Salazar and his 10-year-old daughter Layla
Layla Salazar memorial

Vincent is understanding of the difficulties encountered by the officers of a small-town police force in the face of such horror, but says answers need to come.

“My daughter’s death cannot have been in vain. The deaths of her classmates cannot have been in vain,” he said. “Something needs to change. Something is better than nothing.”

It is a reflection of the intensity of the public mood in Uvalde that police could no longer evade those questions.

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The images of family members being restrained by the very police officers they were pleading with to intervene are as shocking as they are heartbreaking.

In so many ways, the scars of Tuesday will never heal.

Olivia Allen can testify to the vagaries of fate at a time like this. Her nephew, a pupil at Robb Elementary, was too unwell to go to school on Tuesday.

“Why did they wait?” she says of the police. Could lives have been saved? “That’s what I keep asking.”

Olivia Allen
Image:Olivia Allen says of the police: ‘Why did they wait?’

Alongside the grief, the anger remains palpable in Uvalde.

For the second time in a week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was interrupted while holding a news conference by a Democrat demanding action on guns.

Read more:

The full timeline of police’s response to massacre


Girl survived by ‘smearing blood on herself and playing dead’

State hosts weapons convention promising ’14 acres of guns’ just days after massacre

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Governor: ‘I was misled. I am livid’

Roland Gutierrez, a state senator for the district that covers Uvalde, told Mr Abbott: “You have to do something, man.”

Ushered out of the room, he told us: “These kids wouldn’t have died if this governor had some laws in place that would have restricted access to this sort of weaponry.”

It seems obvious to many. But, as is so often the case in today’s America, the division, the rancour, the lack of good faith, make meaningful action very unlikely. The gun lobby refuses to budge.

And – for all the thoughts and prayers – it is inevitable that another town will one day join Uvalde on this awful roll call of horror.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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