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Memorial services for Texas shooting victims will take place over the next 2 weeks


In Uvalde, Texas, families are burying their relatives as more details emerge about what happened before and during last week's deadly massacre at Robb Elementary School. Police now confirm that an exterior door at the school failed to lock when a teacher closed it just before the gunman used it to enter the school and kill 19 students and two teachers. The investigation went on as mourners attended the first of the funerals for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza. And hundreds gathered to grieve at visitations for other victims. The Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports from Uvalde.

SERGIO MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN, BYLINE: The Sacred Heart Catholic church in Uvalde is in a quiet neighborhood. But the last few days, the church has seen many people come inside. On Tuesday, however, hundreds of mourners came specifically to pay respect to 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza at her funeral. Her family wore lavender-colored clothes. The pallbearers wore white shirts and jeans. The event was closed to the press. But Andrea Martinez (ph), who was inside, was able to describe what those who loved Amerie experienced.

ANDREA MARTINEZ: It was an environment of grace and moments of reverence and moments of a path to solace.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: A path to solace. That's what many in this community want to find after a gunman entered Robb Elementary last week and shot to death 19 children and two teachers. Martinez didn't know Amerie or her parents, but she still felt moved to come here. She works with kids, so this hits close to home. Minutes after this conversation, Amerie's casket was transported to a nearby cemetery for burial. Sadie Martinez (ph), not related to Andrea, is Amerie's cousin. She describes Amerie as being sassy, kind and smart.

SADIE MARTINEZ: The last time I saw her, we were playing. And she was happy and playing and stuff.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Unfortunately, this was not the only funeral held on Tuesday. Less than 10 minutes away, there was one for 10-year-old Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. That one was also private. But inside that funeral home, the visitation for Irma Garcia and her husband, Joe, also took place. Garcia was a fourth-grade teacher killed during the massacre. Joe died of a heart attack two days after.

CARLOS MARTINEZ JR: I was in shock. I'm still in shock. I still can't believe it. And I don't know. I mean, I have no explanation. (Laughter) It's hard.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: That's Carlos Martinez Jr. His wife, Delia, worked for Joe. Delia says the couple was exemplary.

DELIA: Everything that they did, never saw anything bad - always in church and family, friends. Very loving people.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: There's grief in Uvalde. Many are frustrated with the response of the police and how facts about the shooting are still trickling out. But Delia now says something needs to change to prevent deaths like this.

DELIA: This child, being 18, was able to get a gun when he wasn't old enough to buy beer, cigarettes, yet purchased this.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: She's talking about Salvador Ramos, the alleged shooter who was 18. He bought a pair of assault rifles weeks before the shooting. Delia and her husband say it's time the government considers increasing the minimum age to purchase these types of firearms. That could be a way to honor their friends' lives.

For NPR News, I'm Sergio Martínez-Beltrán in Uvalde.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.