The grieving Texas town of Uvalde has begun laying to rest the children and teachers who were killed in a mass shooting at a primary school one week ago.
Nineteen students, all aged 9 to 11, and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman who burst into their fourth-grade classroom and opened fire with a high-velocity AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.
A series of funerals is scheduled for the next two weeks in the town of 16,000, which is nearly 80 per cent Latino or Hispanic and largely Roman Catholic.
Among those are services for the two teachers who died, Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia, 48.
Garcia’s husband, Jose Garcia, 50, died of a heart attack two days after the shooting.
The first two of 19 children slain inside a classroom in Uvalde, Texas have been remembered at funeral visitations on what would've been the joyous start of summer break. More funerals and burials will follow over the next two-and-a-half weeks, https://t.co/KMu4HmAlMt
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 31, 2022
A joint funeral is planned on Wednesday for the couple, who met in high school and had four children.
“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.
At that meeting, Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department, who has come under criticism for his response to the shooting, was scheduled to be sworn in as a recently elected member of the city council.
Arredondo was the on-scene commander who decided against storming the classroom where the shooter opened fire, erroneously believing he had time to mount an assault, according to state public safety officials.
Local police waited outside the classroom for nearly an hour as children called 911 pleading for help before a US Border Patrol tactical team burst in and killed the shooter.
As the town grieves, the country again grapples with whether to reform US and state gun laws, which in Texas allowed the shooter to legally buy an AR-15-style weapon on his 18th birthday, a week before the massacre.
The shooter bought hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a second rifle in the subsequent days.
Many Democrats including US President Joe Biden have called for more restrictions.
Republicans have successfully held off gun control measures, and in many states expanded gun rights in recent years, saying gun control only deprives law-abiding citizens of their rights.
President Biden has backed such actions as a renewed assault weapons ban and universal background checks.