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    Uvalde families reach settlement, can 'begin rebuilding trust'

    By Emily Shapiro,

    27 days ago

    Nineteen families whose loved ones were killed or hurt in the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting announced they've reached a settlement with the city and county of Uvalde.

    "For two long years, we have languished in pain and without any accountability from the law enforcement agencies and officers who allowed our families to be destroyed that day," Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter, Jailah, and nephew, Jayce, were killed, said in a statement Wednesday. "This settlement reflects a first good faith effort, particularly by the City of Uvalde, to begin rebuilding trust in the systems that failed to protect us."
    Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: A woman hugs a girl as they cry during a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 25, 2022.

    The settlement comes as families approach the two-year mark of the May 24, 2022, massacre at Robb Elementary School, during which an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

    When the gunfire broke out that day, officers from Uvalde police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Texas Department of Public Safety were among those who rushed to Robb Elementary. But law enforcement waited some 77 minutes before breaching a classroom and killing the gunman.
    Marco Bello/Reuters - PHOTO: Law enforcement officers guard the scene of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, May 24, 2022.

    "For 77 minutes, 26 members of the Uvalde Police Department failed to confront an 18 year-old kid armed with an AR-15, and no disciplinary action has ever been taken -- no firings, no demotions, no transparency -- and the families remain eager for that to change," Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said in a statement. "But the healing process must begin, and the commitments made today by the City, in particular, are a step in that critical process."

    As a part of the settlement with the city and county, the families said they were involved in the efforts to improve the Uvalde Police Department, with changes including enhanced officer training and a new "fitness for duty" standard for officers.

    The families said the settlement also mandates ways the city should support the community as residents heal, including: establishing May 24 as an annual Day of Remembrance; creating a committee to design a permanent memorial funded by the city; and continuing to support mental health services.

    "Justice and accountability has always been a main concern -- we've been let down so many times," Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter, Jackie, was killed, said at a news conference Wednesday. "The time has come to do the right thing."

    MORE: Uvalde parents outraged after independent report finds police officers didn't violate policy

    The city will pay out a total of $2 million to the families from its insurance coverage, saying pursuing more money could have plunged the city into bankruptcy, "something that none of the families were interested in as they look for the community to heal."

    The victims' families "love living here and they want to stay here," Koskoff said. "When you see them on the street ... you don't have to look away, even if you wear a badge."

    The city said in a statement, "We will forever be grateful to the victims’ families for working with us over the past year to cultivate an environment of community-wide healing that honors the lives and memories of those we tragically lost."
    Brandon Bell/Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: Angeli Rose Gomez, a mother who rushed into Robb Elementary School to save her two children, places roses down at a memorial dedicated to the victims on May 24, 2022.

    The families on Wednesday also announced lawsuits against 92 Texas Department of Public Safety officers. The suit said the officers were trained to first prioritize stopping the killing, then stopping the dying, then evacuating those hurt.

    "Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom," Luevanos said.
    Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: The sun sets behind the memorial for the victims of the massacre at Robb Elementary School on Aug. 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.

    The lawsuit names the Uvalde School District and several of its employees as defendants, including the then-principal and then-school district police chief.

    The families said the school's lockdown protocols -- to turn off the lights, lock the door and stay quiet -- trapped teachers and children inside, "leaving them fully reliant on law enforcement to respond."

    The families also plan to sue the federal government, Koskoff said, noting that over 150 federal officers were at the school and "stood around until one or more breached the room at 77 minutes."

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