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Families of Uvalde massacre victims say charges against former school police chief ‘not enough’

Families who lost loved ones in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, said the Thursday arrest of former school district police chief Pete Arredondo is not a “happy moment” and are calling for more indictments.

Arredondo, 52, was arrested on an indictment charging him with 10 counts of abandoning/endangering a child in connection with the May 24, 2022, school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers. Another 17 people were injured.

Those 10 counts are in connection with schoolchildren who survived the shooting, but experienced delays in receiving care and protection.

Arredondo, who was described as the incident commander during the shooting and was the focus of scathing criticism for mismanaging the police response, was later released after posting a $10,000 surety bond.

The massacre saw nearly 400 officers descend upon the school — yet it took more than 70 minutes for the gunman to be confronted and killed, in what the Justice Department described as a “failure” of the law enforcement response.

A second officer was also indicted on multiple similar charges, according to a parent of one of the slain children, who asked not to be identified. However, that individual has not been publicly identified by authorities.

Berlinda Arreola, whose 10-year-old granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza was among those killed, said Thursday that Arredondo’s arrest is not a “happy moment.”

“It’s still a sad moment. There’s nothing to be happy about,” she said. “We are having to relive this nightmare again knowing they had the chance to save some of our loved ones — maybe all of them.”

She said the Thursday news was a surprise.

“It’s something that we have been looking or waiting for for the past two years … and honestly, we were about to give up hope,” she said. “So we were really surprised that we finally got a little bit of accountability and justice.”

But there’s more to be done, she said. Arreola said she was expecting more names to be brought to light regarding police failures and wants more indictments to come down.

Jesse Rizo, the uncle of 9-year-old Jacklyn Cazares, who died in the shooting, also called for more answers.

“Why only two people? It’s a very valid question, why only two individuals that were indicted today? And we hope that we get that answer soon,” he said.

He said the charges were a good step, calling it “a very emotional day for me.”

“I don’t think it’s enough,” he said. “It’s hard to swallow. You had children that went through a lot, that saw living hell, that took their last breath on their own, the only comfort they had was each other and perhaps even themselves.”

“So, when you see these charges and the maximum penalty only carries a few years in jail, possibly,” he continued, “it’s difficult to accept that. It is something, it’s more than what you had before. Hopefully there’s other people that are going to be indicted and maybe be charged with a little bit more.”

Kimberly Rubio, the mother of 10-year-old Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, told NBC News on Friday: “I am glad to see that some action was taken. But I don’t want it mistaken for justice. This isn’t justice. This is just the beginning. Justice would be convictions.”

She said hearing the news brought to mind images of her daughter.

“It’s two indictments out of so many possibilities. There were dozens of officers that arrived there early that knew that children were in the classroom, knew that there was an active shooter, and they chose to do nothing. It is not enough, it’ll never be enough,” she continued. “Some of these officers are getting a second chance and my daughter didn’t get a second chance.”

“I’m hopeful, I want to see convictions. I want to see them put through the system. I want to see them in court. I want them convicted, I want them to face jail time for some time. Nothing else will be OK with me,” Rubio said.

Brett Cross, the father of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who died in the shooting, said he learned of the indictments on social media, not from the district attorney’s office — a pattern noticed by the other parents who spoke with NBC News on Arredondo’s arrest.

When he heard the news, he thought, “Finally.”

“Like everything else, I feel like it’s just a step. … It shouldn’t end with just these two,” he said. He called it two out of 376% justice — referring to the number of officers who responded.

For him, justice involves charges against the officers “that were in the hallway, the ones that knew the information, the ones that knew that there were children in there and then they didn’t do anything.”

Speaking on yesterday’s indictments, he said: “I think that they should have to do a year for every minute that these children were in there alone.”

When asked if there’s concern that Arredondo and any others potentially charged may not be convicted — as with the school resource officer in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, who was found not guilty of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury at trial.

“Absolutely. Especially if this is done in and around Uvalde, because the community at large don’t care anymore and they tell us to move on,” Cross said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t have high expectations in anything anymore because life can change in a matter of seconds.”

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