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I am safe hidden here

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Residents in Uvalde are increasingly frustrated that the public servants responsible for allowing an armed-to-the-teeth murderer to spend more than an hour in a room with schoolchildren have simply gone into hiding:

In the week since state police singled him out for blame, Arredondo has hardly been seen.

Police officers stand guard outside his home. He has declined to explain his actions, telling a television crew that staked out his office he would not do so until after the victims’ funerals. City officials, too, have assisted in the vanishing act. They canceled a previously scheduled public ceremony Tuesday and instead swore in Arredondo in secret for his latest role on the City Council.

Even state police complained this week that Arredondo has remained elusive to them, accusing him of not cooperating with a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation into the shooting, a claim Arredondo refuted. The New York Times reported Friday that the chief arrived on scene without a radio, hampering his ability to organize the response.

Residents here remain in mourning. Each day repeats a cycle of at least two funerals followed by processions to the cemetery on the west edge of town. Their grief, however, is giving way to frustration about how local officials have responded to the tragedy and conversations about how to hold them accountable.

For many, this starts with firing Arredondo and overhauling his department, which they believe failed the students it was supposed to keep safe.

“They were cowards,” said Salvador Hurtado, a retired farm worker, who said Arredondo should lose his job. “There was one man with a gun, and they waited and waited. … I read the signs on the police cars that say ‘protect and serve.’ Where was the protection?”

But residents here also expressed broader desire for transparency from city and school district officials, whom they feel have retreated from serving their constituents at a time they are needed most.

City Hall has locked its doors during business hours and declined to immediately provide any public records to reporters. The chief of the city police force, Daniel Rodriguez, has declined to answer questions about his officers’ response to the shooting. A Uvalde CISD official told a reporter, falsely, that the first school board meeting since the incident would be closed to the public.

It’s not just that they failed to do their job with horrifying results. Police officers get numerous legal privileges and immunities, not to mention the ability to legally initiate violence, in exchange for their willingness to accept risk. To fail catastrophically and then refuse any accentuality or even explanation is just not remotely acceptable.

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