Funerals are being held for a pair of 10-year-old girls with further ceremonies scheduled through the coming weeks, including of 17 other small children and two teachers killed at an elementary school in the US state a week ago.
The grieving Texas town of Uvalde has begun laying to rest the 21 children and teachers who were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school a week ago, with funerals being held for a pair of 10-year-old girls.
Hundreds of mourners turned out on Tuesday for an afternoon Mass to remember Amerie Jo Garza.
Six pallbearers wearing white shirts and gloves carried her small casket into Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which turned away several mourners after reaching capacity.
Maite Rodriguez's funeral was scheduled for later at one of the funeral homes in Uvalde, Texas.
The two 10-year-old fourth-graders were among 19 children and two teachers killed when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos burst into a classroom on May 24 and began firing a military-style rifle.
Visitation for one of the teachers, 48-year-old Irma Garcia, also was on Tuesday, along with visitations for children Nevaeh Bravo and Jose Flores Jr.
Amerie loved purple, and Erika Santiago, her husband and their two children wore purple shirts adorned with images of the victims to Amerie's funeral. Santiago described Amerie as "a nice little girl who smiled a lot," and who was "so humble and charismatic but full of life."
Santiago said her 10-year-old son, Adriel, watched in horror when the first images came out on the news after the shooting and he recognised his friends Amerie and Maite.
"It affected him so much," Santiago said. "He told me he did not want to go to school fearing that could happen. He told me, 'Mom, I just don’t feel safe.'"
Funerals will continue over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Vincent Salazar's 11-year-old daughter, Layla, has the last of the scheduled services — her visitation is June 15 with the funeral the following day.
Salazar said the family likely won't see Layla's body until soon before the visitation.
"It's strange because usually when somebody dies, these things happen in three or four days," Salazar said. "It’s not something that goes on this long. I understand there were other children as well, but we're just waiting to get her back. That's all we’re focused on."
Meanwhile, at least one family still hasn't seen the body of their loved one.
'We need facts'
Uvalde County Justice of the Peace Eulalio "Lalo" Diaz Jr said the bodies of all 21 victims were sent to the medical examiner's office in San Antonio for autopsies, which he said is standard for a major crime.
"Our thing is to have all the facts," Diaz said. "Even though there is a deceased shooter and we probably won't have a trial, we still need to have the facts."
Diaz said the autopsies are complete. He declined to discuss preliminary results and said final reports will take three to four months.
Investigators continue to seek answers about how police responded to the shooting, and the US Department of Justice is reviewing law enforcement actions.
The blame for an excruciating delay in killing the gunman — even as parents outside begged police to rush in and panicked children called 911 from inside — was placed on the school district’s homegrown police chief, Pete Arredondo, after the director of state police said Arredondo made the "wrong decision" not to breach the classroom, believing the gunman was barricaded inside and children weren't at risk.
Authorities have said Ramos legally purchased two guns not long before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, permitting him to buy the weapons under federal law.